Concerns arise on impacts of SFPUC finances on clean power program

Cindy Chew/2009 S.F. Examiner file photoSFPUC has halted work on the CleanPowerSF program.

Cindy Chew/2009 S.F. Examiner file photoSFPUC has halted work on the CleanPowerSF program.

Questions are being raised on whether the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission is overstating a financial crisis to deal a decisive blow to the hotly debated clean-power proposal that is being opposed by Mayor Ed Lee.

Additionally, the head of the commission, Harlan Kelly, has ordered staff to stop working on the program, said Barbara Hale, SFPUC assistant general manager for power.

In a Jan. 10 memo, Kelly said: “The SFPUC staff is refocusing its work on other issues facing the Power Enterprise. We will continue to do this unless we get further direction from the Commission to resume work on CleanPowerSF.”

CleanPowerSF is a community choice aggregation program permitted by state law that allows municipalities to provide electricity to customers on an opt-out basis using the existing power infrastructure. Such models have long been opposed by PG&E. Marin County was the first in the region to adopt a clean-power program, which is intended to offer customers a greener energy choice.

San Francisco’s effort suffered a major setback in August when the commission rejected the maximum power rates for the program. The vote sparked a heated political feud in which program critics were accused of bowing to PG&E interests. The Board of Supervisors has voted to approve the program, but it will not take effect unless the commission signs off on the rates.

Last week, the agency sounded the alarm about a fiscal crisis it faces that includes a projected Hetchy power shortfall of $467.7 million.

“Trust is really low right now,” said Supervisor John Avalos, referring to what he called misinformation about the program from the mayor and the commission’s unwillingness to approve the rates. “I really want to see some real verification of projected shortfalls within the power program.”

Similarly, Supervisor London Breed said, “From my perspective, I’m not certain that this is just another tactic in order to move away from what we are trying do with clean power.

“I just would really like to see just some documentation of this and not see a situation being created just to derail clean power.”

The commission currently has $19.5 million set aside for CleanPowerSF. Given the reported financial challenges, some think the agency intends to use that money for other needs.

“I thought that the PUC, the commissioners, just did not approve the not-to-exceed rates; but have they made an indication that CleanPowerSF is dead and gone?” Avalos said.

Hale responded, “We’ve been given direction at the staff level to focus our efforts on the need to get our financial house back in order.”

The board members have requested a joint public meeting with the commission to address the future of CleanPowerSF. That meeting has not yet been scheduled.Babara HaleBay Area NewsCleanPowerSFSan Francisco Public Utilities Commission

Just Posted

Badly needed rain cooled off pedestrians on Market Street in The City on Wednesday. (Kevin N. Hume/The Examiner)
Storm door opens in San Francisco — what will the rains bring?

‘Come Monday, fire season in Northern California should be done’

Newly appointed City Attorney David Chiu will play a key role in an upcoming legal battle between gig economy companies and The City. (Sheila Fitzgerald/Shutterstock)
City Attorney David Chiu faces immediate test in major gig economy lawsuit

DoorDash and Grubhub are suing San Francisco over price controls

FILE — In-N-Out Burger, the popular California fast-food chain, is resisting San Francisco's public health rules that require indoor diners to show proof of vaccination. (J. Emilio Flores/The New York Times)
When it comes to San Francisco vaccine rules, In-N-Out should heed Biblical advice

Burger chain’s vaccine fight distracts from its tasty burgers and French fries controversy

The Walgreens at 4645 Mission St. in The City is among those slated to close. <ins>(Courtesy photo)</ins>
Walgreens says it’s closing five SF stores due to crime. Where’s the data?

Walgreens should be transparent, enlighten city leaders about crime’s effect on business

Lake Hennessey, a reservoir for Napa, looked dry in June. Gov. Gavin Newsom on Tuesday issued a proclamation extending the drought emergency statewide and asked residents to redouble water conservation efforts. <ins>(Mike Kai Chen/New York Times)</ins>
Newsom declares drought emergency across California

State closed out its second-driest water year on record

Most Read