Public power initiative on ballot for November election

Voters will get their third chance in less than a decade to wrest power from private interests in San Francisco after seven supervisors sent a clean energy and public power proposal to the ballot Tuesday.

The proposition would amend the City Charter to require the Public Utilities Commission to publish a study that identifies the most effective and economic means of implementing a set of ambitious clean energy goals.

Under the initiative, 51 percent of The City’s energy expenditures would be required to come from renewable or conserved sources by 2017. The bar would be raised to 75 percent by 2030, and 100 percent by 2040.

After the completion of the draft study, the Public Utilities Commission would be required to hold at least one public hearing before it goes to independent experts for review. If the Board of Supervisors chooses, under the proposition, they can then “direct the Commission to immediately prepare a plan to acquire, construct, or complete the electric facilities serving The City.”

The main backer of the initiative, Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi, referred to it as the San Francisco Clean Energy Act. He said the initiative would determine if The City could provide cleaner and more economical power.

“It is not a hostile takeover,” Mirkarimi said. “This is not a $4 billion grab.”

Newsom called the title of the initiative a “rather cynical way of branding.”

“Let’s call it what it is, it’s a public power initiative to take over PG&E … who are by any objective standards doing more than any other utility in the United States of America [to reduce greenhouse emissions],” Newsom said.

A campaign to defeat the initiative has already been formed through Newsom advisor Eric Jaye’s political consultant group. Spokesman Joe Zago said the initiative would eventually hit utility customers in the pocketbook.

“The measure gives the Board of Supervisors a virtual blank check to build any new power generation — including the polluting “peaker” power plants, which the board continues to advance despite the fact that there is a cleaner alternative,” Zago said in a statement.

bbegin@sfexaminer.com

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