SFPUC makes power grab

In a move that could eventually silence or vindicate critics of citywide public-power proposals, San Francisco is preparing to become the electricity seller for massive, new southeastern neighborhoods.

Homebuilding is set to begin within four months at the shuttered, 493-acre Hunters Point Naval Shipyard, where electricity will be provided by the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission.

The shipyard’s dilapidated, Navy-installed power infrastructure is being replaced by the commission, which plans to sell electricity to future residents and businesses.

PG&E, which owns San Francisco’s electric grid, holds a near-monopoly on power sales to residents and businesses throughout The City.

The commission, on the other hand, provides electricity for municipal services, such as the Police, Fire and Public Health departments.

It reached an agreement with developers in 2007 to provide power at Parcel A of the shipyard, which is the first space to be redeveloped.

A November 2008 ballot measure — which would have allowed The City to try to take over PG&E’s grid, and its customers, if it passed — became the latest public-power effort, after it was formally opposed by three city supervisors, U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein and Mayor Gavin Newsom.

In last year’s campaign materials, PG&E said the Public Utilities Commission was ill-equipped to provide power and thus electricity bills would soar if the measure passed.

Commission senior power official Barbara Hale said it will sell reliable electricity at competitive rates to shipyard tenants.

“We’ve been delivering power to critical San Francisco services for decades,” she said. “We provide distribution services and electricity to the former Treasure Island naval base, and we have a track record of providing reliable service there.”

Wiring is scheduled to be pulled through new utility lines at the shipyard in January, allowing the commission to sell electricity to homebuilders. Construction is expected to begin in February, according to Hale.

Solar panels are planned on all shipyard homes and may collectively form a solar power plant, or simply provide power for the tenants beneath, she said.

jupton@sfexaminer.com

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