In a few months, San Francisco will automatically enroll residents in a new, city-run program called CleanPowerSF, which is a Community Choice Aggregation system. It may be named CleanPowerSF, but there’s no guarantee the energy will be clean or green.
More often than not, we’re finding that real clean and green energy is not what CCAs are actually delivering.
Since Marin County’s CCA, Marin Clean Energy, began serving customers, it has bought more than 80 percent of its energy from Shell Oil, which has one of the worst environmental records and human-rights records in business today. The energy Shell sells to Marin is called “green” because Marin buys credits called Renewable Energy Certificates — in effect, greenwashing dirty fossil fuel power.
RECs are not real green energy — they are pieces of paper that represent the fact that green energy was created somewhere in the Western grid. Using RECs as the basis of a green energy program is a bad idea for two reasons.
First, relying on certificates, as opposed to actual green power, means no new green power is generated. Second, it means we lose well-paying local jobs that would have been necessary to sustain the demand for new green power.
RECs are favored by big oil companies and politicians because they are able to claim they’ve invested in green power, but customers receive the same dirty brown power as before. When PG&E wanted to offer a REC-based energy program in 2012, a coalition led by The Utility Reform Network and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers stood up and fought them — and won.
San Francisco politicians are no strangers to RECs, either. Two years ago, The City tried to roll out CleanPowerSF with Shell Oil and use RECs to cover 85 percent of the power load. A broad coalition of San Franciscans stood up against that program, and it, too, came to a halt. These same city politicians recently voted to allow CleanPowerSF to sidestep basic good government protections like competitive bidding and local hire rules.
Proposition H was designed to hold those politicians accountable and make sure the energy we receive is actually green. It’s an important protection to help ensure that San Franciscans won’t be fooled like the residents of Marin.
Passing Prop. H will help ensure San Francisco uses real green energy produced right here in California. So as we go green, we don’t harm our environment or lose important family-sustaining jobs.
If Prop. H passes, we will be able to accurately evaluate how green the new electricity is that The City sells us through CleanPowerSF. Without it, we won’t really know where our power comes from, how polluting it is or how it impacts our local green economy.
Prop. H is pro-clean power, pro-jobs and pro-union — it’s a measure we can all get behind.
And that’s why it has so much support. Prop H is endorsed by Mayor Ed Lee, supervisors London Breed and John Avalos, the Sierra Club San Francisco Bay Chapter, IBEW Local 1245 and many, many others.
Developing new sources of real renewable energy will lead the way forward on climate change — not phony energy credits that harm the environment and destroy family-sustaining jobs. And, as a city, we should acknowledge that our energy isn’t sustainable if energy workers are disposable. As the green economy grows, it is possible to have true green power without settling for disposable, low-wage jobs for the people who create and deliver that power.
San Franciscans deserve real green energy, and Prop. H will help make sure that’s what we get. Vote yes on Prop. H this November.
Hunter Stern is the business representative of IBEW Local 1245.