San Francisco is on target to launch a renewable energy program early next year to begin competing with PG&E after 11 years of bitter politics and millions of dollars spent.
But a ballot measure submitted by IBEW Local 1245, a labor union representing PG&E workers, which qualified for the ballot Wednesday through a signature gathering campaign, has raised concerns about the program’s future.
If passed, IBEW’s measure would prohibit The City from counting energy as “clean” or “green” if it doesn’t fit into only one of the three energy categories allowed under state renewable energy definitions.
Program supporters downplay the impact the measure might have on the proposed CleanPowerSF program. But clearly there are worries.
The Board of Supervisors is fighting the measure with a competing one introduced by board president London Breed, which the board is expected to place on the ballot Tuesday, following a committee hearing on it today. “This measure wouldn’t exist if it wasn’t for the IBEW measure,” said Supervisor John Avalos, adding that it is needed “to protect the CleanPowerSF program.”
PG&E could use the same energy mix as CleanPowerSF and call portions of it “green” or “clean” that The City could not under the IBEW measure. The fear is, the less The City can promote its energy program as renewable energy, the greater the opt-out rate of CleanPowerSF customers to return to PG&E. That could hamper the program’s revenue stream and limit its potential for investment in renewable energy projects.
Clean energy advocate Eric Brooks said during the board’s Rules Committee hearing on the issue last week that the IBEW measure “is a hijacking of the free market system giving PG&E the ability to claim that it’s green by buying renewable energy credits and it bars The City from doing the same exact thing.”
It’s unclear exactly what will be CleanPowerSF’s renewable energy mix. City officials say the program doesn’t intend to rely on renewable energy credits, though they have been used by other programs to help them launch by keeping costs low. They are also used when renewable energy derived from wind and solar drops, and in cases of emergencies.
The City plans to solicit renewable energy suppliers beginning Aug. 3. The results will give an indication of the marketplace and inform what energy portfolio is achievable.
The City plans to offer a basic service using between 33 and 50 percent renewable energy. The basic service will not cost customers more than they are paying with PG&E. For an extra charge, customers can be provided 100 percent renewable energy.
Meanwhile, The City is expected to enter a contract Aug. 11 with Nobles America to handle the administrative side of the program.
Breed’s measure reaffirms the state’s definitions of renewable energy and mandates that the Department on the Environment send notices, which would cost The City an estimated $135,000, to power customers informing them which power suppliers have nuclear energy, an apparent jab at PG&E, which uses nuclear energy and promotes that energy source as greenhouse gas emission free.
IBEW Local 1245 spokesman Hunter Stern said Breed’s measure “does promote the use of RECs.” “RECs do not produce more renewable energy and they do not promote the development and construction of renewable energy projects,” Stern said.
If both measures are approved the one with the most votes prevails.