Mike koozmin/S.f. Examiner file photoLegislation introduced by Supervisor Scott Wiener that was approved Tuesday seeks to boost clean-energy usage in San Francisco.

SF’s public-power program set for new customers

After the political uproar last year that followed the failed launch of San Francisco's municipal energy program, the power issue remains no less divisive. But unlike last year, there was some forward movement Tuesday.

The Board of Supervisors passed a new policy to expand the number of customers served by the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission's power enterprise.

Last year, CleanPowerSF came close to launching to compete with PG&E, which has long held an energy monopoly in San Francisco.

But the program stalled, and discussions are ongoing with a new target of launching next year.

In the meantime, Supervisor Scott Wiener was able to pass legislation Tuesday that would help boost clean-energy usage in San Francisco. The effort was opposed by the Chamber of Commerce and Building Owners and Managers Association, a group that represents commercial property owners but supported by the San Francisco chapters of the Sierra Club and the League of Conservation Voters.

The legislation empowers the SFPUC to have the right of first refusal to act as the energy provider of new private and public developments. Private developments include projects with more than 10 residential units or the rehabilitation of more than 10,000 square feet of building space. In a way, it is a toned-down version of CleanPowerSF, which would automatically sign up residential power customers who would then need to opt out to remain with PG&E. There is no opt-out in Wiener's legislation.

The energy from the SFPUC, which is produced from the Hetch Hetchy Reservoir, would help San Francisco reduce its greenhouse-gas emissions (city officials adopted a goal in 1998 to have a 100 percent greenhouse-gas-emission-free electrical system in place by 2030).

But it would also help generate much needed revenue for an infrastructure in disrepair. During the next two years, the SFPUC plans to spend $767 million on its power facilities, said Barbara Hale, assistant general manager of power.

The SFPUC currently powers municipal facilities like Muni, City Hall, San Francisco International Airport, San Francisco General Hospital, and police and fire stations.

Amandeep Jawa, president of the League of Conservation Voters, said that “nothing could be more critical in the era of global warming” than expanding the role of clean power.

But opponents wanted a choice.

“Why don't you allow PG&E and the SFPUC to bid for the contract to supply power for these new developments?” said Ken Cleveland, director of BOMA.

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