Protect the needy while supporting CleanPowerSF

San Francisco has taken an important step toward building a sustainable future with its approval of CleanPowerSF. All that truly stands in the way now is making sure the rollout will allow people who do not want to participate to opt out.

The new power program is the second of its kind in the state, a “community choice aggregation” program that allows a municipality to buy and sell power. The goal of CleanPowerSF is to sell 100 percent renewable energy to existing PG&E customers who live in The City.

The biggest fight over approval of the program involved how those 90,000 PG&E customers will be enrolled.

Under the 2002 state law that established the framework for such programs, users must be automatically enrolled and then asked if they would like to opt out. Three supervisors argued convincingly that it would have been better if the program had allowed ratepayers to opt in to the service rather than having to opt out. Mayor Ed Lee’s spokesman said the mayor also had issues about this provision.

Lee could symbolically veto the legislation, but it was passed by the Board of Supervisors with enough votes to override any mayoral veto. So it would be better for San Franciscans if city officials now stopped talking about what-ifs and focused instead on making sure the program is implemented in a fashion that is fair and equitable for all the people who are about to find themselves enrolled.

City officials need to roll out a truly effective outreach campaign, particularly in low-income neighborhoods and those with a large percentage of residents for whom English is not their native language. The final rates are not yet set, but it is estimated the average power bill for ratepayers who remain enrolled in CleanPowerSF will increase an average of between $9 and $18 a month. In solidly middle-class or higher-income neighborhoods, such an increase may barely be noticeable, but for San Franciscans who are barely scrapping by, such an increase could create an economic hardship.

In spite of this real concern, the program’s advantages far outweigh its negatives. The City will enter into a five-year agreement with Shell in order to sell the energy, and the plan is for San Francisco to use the program’s revenue stream to then further bolster construction of new renewable energy sources. In particular, the program is expected to fund new solar initiatives. Further down the line, the funds could also be used to build other solar and wind projects in The City that lessen our carbon emissions.

There is no such thing as a perfect system, and the program’s local implementation will likely have a few hiccups. Yet Marin County instituted the state’s first system, and the lights there have continued to shine without any big complications.

San Francisco has to pony up an initial $13.5 million for the program, but that money will be refundable if the program succeeds. In addition to the program’s obvious environmental benefits for The City, the money that could be lost in the event of failure is another reason that city officials should now line up and help this program succeed.

Hindsight is 20/20, but now that the board has spoken, it is clear what lies ahead. And bickering over a 2002 state law does nothing to benefit The City.

CleanPowerSFeditorialsOpinionPG&ESan Francisco

If you find our journalism valuable and relevant, please consider joining our Examiner membership program.
Find out more at www.sfexaminer.com/join/

Just Posted

School board members Gabriela Lopez (left) and Alison Collins (right) say they have been the subject of frequent hateful, racist and sexist attacks during their time on the school board. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F Examiner)
Angered by Lowell decision, SFUSD grad targets school board members with violent imagery

Facebook page depicts two women of color on board with swastikas and x-marks on their faces

Supervisor Sandra Lee Fewer, a former school board member, said it was ‘ridiculous’ that the school district did not yet have a plan to reopen. <ins>(Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)</ins>
Supervisors demand SFUSD set a timeline for reopening

Pressure grows on district to resume in-person learning as The City’s COVID-19 case count goes down

“Tenet,” the new Christopher Nolan film starring John David Washington, is showing at the drive-in in Concord. (Courtesy Warner Bros.)
Drive-ins are popping up all over the Bay Area

By Amelia Williams Bay City News Foundation Anyone else catch the “Grease”… Continue reading

The San Francisco International Arts Festival will present performances this weekend outdoors at Fort Mason, including on the Parade Ground, Eucalyptus Grove and Black Point Battery. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
SF International Arts Festival wins health department approval for weekend performances

Rules allow no more than 50 people at outdoor Fort Mason performances

In this handout image provided by the California Department of Corrections, convicted murderer Scott Peterson poses for a mug shot March 17, 2005 in San Quentin, California. Judge Alfred A. Delucchi sentenced Peterson to death March 16 for murdering his wife, Laci Peterson, and their unborn child. (California Department of Corrections via Getty Images/TNS)
Prosecutors to retry penalty phase of Scott Peterson trial

2003 discovery of Laci Peterson’s body led to sensational high-profile murder trial of husband

Most Read