CleanPowerSF brings cleaner electricity to San Francisco

What if we could power our homes with 100 percent clean energy at competitive rates? San Francisco has a new default electricity provider called CleanPowerSF, and residents are being enrolled one neighborhood at a time. The change is automatic: unless you deliberately opt out, electricity served to your home will soon come from 40 percent renewable sources like wind and solar.

Over the past few decades, the cost of electricity from wind and solar has fallen dramatically. At the same time, demand for clean power has increased worldwide. These go hand in hand: as prices come down, more wind and solar are installed, and as demand increases, the technologies mature and become less expensive. Because of this virtuous cycle, one of the easiest ways to support clean power in California is to buy electricity from local wind and solar providers.

CleanPowerSF is a new Community Choice Aggregation program administered by SF Public Utilities, the same folks who provide our Hetch Hetchy tap water. Here’s how it works: CleanPowerSF buys electricity on behalf of SF residents and businesses, at least 40 percent coming from renewable resources like solar and wind. The power is delivered over the existing power lines, PG&E will continue to manage billing and your electricity rates are not expected to increase.

In fact, CleanPowerSF plans to offer lower rates, possible in part due to the low cost of new contracts for solar and wind energy. While there is no guarantee about future rates, the bottom line is that SF residents should not anticipate an appreciable change in their electric bill. Low-income discounts through CARE, FERA, and Medical Baseline will continue to apply, as will rebates for energy efficiency.

When your neighborhood switches to CleanPowerSF, residents are put on the default “Green” plan, which provides 40 percent renewable energy. CleanPowerSF also offers a 100 percent renewable “SuperGreen” plan at a higher rate ($5-20 per month depending on your electricity use). By choosing 100 percent clean energy, you can increase demand for renewable energy and further support the continued growth of wind and solar power in California. When you receive a mailer from CleanPowerSF, give them a call and ask about upgrading your service to SuperGreen.

To be sure, most of us in San Francisco are perfectly happy with our present electric service. We appreciate the reliability and we know how to read our bill. But in moving to CleanPowerSF, we won’t notice any changes, as distribution service and billing will continue exactly as before.

If you’re concerned about the change, call up CleanPowerSF or visit their website. And if you can afford the SuperGreen 100 percent renewable plan, it’s a great way to increase your impact at a reasonable cost. CleanPowerSF presents an unprecedented opportunity: it has never been easier to support the rapid growth of renewable energy in California.

Aryeh Gold-Parker is a PhD student at Stanford University studying new materials for solar panels. He lives in San Francisco.

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