City’s energy-provider plan hitting bumps

The failure to negotiate energy rates that are competitive with existing PG&E prices is putting a power program planned for The City in jeopardy.

San Francisco has been working to establish community choice aggregation, which The City is calling CleanPowerSF. The program would automatically sign up San Francisco’s power customers to buy energy at competitive rates.

By now, the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission was supposed to have negotiated a contract with selected energy provider Power Choice, but the talks continue to be centered around acceptable energy rates for costumers, SFPUC General Manager Ed Harrington said Friday.

The sticking points are not new, he said. The same conundrum has always existed about how to supply the more expensive greener energy at similar rates as PG&E, Harrington said. The program has a goal of 51 percent renewable energy by 2017.

After putting the program out to bid, “What’s come back is it’s still a problem. You cannot charge PG&E rates and get wind and solar,” Harrington said.  

Nancy Miller, executive director of the Local Agency Formation Commission who’s part of negotiations, seemingly had a different take.

“The issues that are remaining are tough issues, but I think they’re not quite so dire as have just been portrayed,” Miller said.  

Advocates of the program were pushing to have a contract approved before the June election, when voters will decide on Proposition 16. The measure was placed on the ballot by PG&E and would make it more difficult for municipalities to set up such programs by requiring a two-thirds vote. San Francisco power customers would be automatically enrolled in the program but could “opt out” and remain with PG&E.  

It’s unclear when the SFPUC will conclude negotiations, which continue to occur on a daily basis.  

“If I thought it was impossible, I wouldn’t be here,” Harrington said of establishing the program. “We’re still working on it.”

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