The future of CleanPowerSF has been further cast into doubt, as Mayor Ed Lee’s proposed budget will eliminate the millions of dollars set aside for the long-planned community-choice aggregation program.
The cutback comes amid a dire financial outlook for the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission and is the latest blow to the more than decadelong effort to launch a local community choice aggregation program.
Some members of the Board of Supervisors Budget and Finance Committee expressed surprise when they were told of the funding cut Wednesday by SFPUC General Manager Harlan Kelly.[jump]
Supervisor John Avalos called the decision “kind of offensive” given that the reserve was supported by a majority of the board and it has made the program a priority. Supervisor Eric Mar also expressed his disapproval, saying, “I feel totally blindsided by this one.”
Avalos has alleged that the mayor, who has opposed CleanPowerSF, and others are caving under the pressure of PG&E, the utility monopoly that has historically fought to prevent municipalities from starting such efforts, and that they have sought reasons to sink the effort. The alternative to PG&E would provide customers with energy from 100 percent renewable sources.
Kelly said the decision came “in the last day or so” in talks with the Mayor’s Office. The agency said its dire financial situation prompted the need to use the $19.5 million in funds.
Mayoral spokeswoman Christine Falvey offered no apologies for the cut.
“There is a significant reserve set aside for a nonexistent program,” she said, adding that the money will instead help fund other needs including a local solar installation program.
Since the supervisors ultimately get to approve the agency’s budget, they sent a clear message that they wouldn’t if the funding wasn’t there for the power program and directed Kelly to come up with alternatives.
But those other options, said Todd Rydstrom, the SFPUC’s chief financial officer, would likely include raising power rates for city departments or capital and program cuts.
Avalos has also proposed joining Marin County’s community-choice aggregation program, a decision that wouldn’t likely require money held on reserve.
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