S.F. supes tilting at windmill again

Ignoring the warnings of economists and the city controller, plus the overwhelming objections of 74 percent of local business executives polled by the Chamber of Commerce, the Board of Supervisors Budget and Finance Committee tiptoed one step closer Wednesday toward putting The City into the renewable electricity business.

The committee voted unanimously to have the Public Utilities Commission analyze how much it would cost ratepayers to bring greener and presumably cheaper city power to residents with a “community choice aggregation” energy provider.

If such a proposal ultimately becomes reality, San Francisco would commit to building enough solar panels, wind turbines and fuel cells to provide at least one-third of the 900 megawatts of energy use daily in The City. Residential and business customers could choose to either join the new city-run system or stay with private supplier Pacific Gas and Electric Co. California law would require PG&E to transmit city-generated power over the utility’s own lines and to handle billing for community choice customers.

There is no denying that the dream of clean, cheap, plentiful, green energy sounds lovely indeed. But when all potential expenses are accurately totaled, the results are likely to be nightmarish. City Controller Ed Harrington is already saying the public alternative would actually cost 24 percent more than PG&E power.

Successful community choice aggregation would require voluntary participation from numerous large-scale business customers. But in a new San Francisco Chamber of Commerce business survey by an independent pollster, some three-fourths of the responding executives believed PG&E would do a better job providing their electricity than The City and they were uninterested in making changes.

The Bay Area Economic Forum also weighed in with a new report cautioning about the difficulties of finding local sites where the neighbors would willingly accept even the greenest new energy generation facilities.

This latest public power proposal harkens back to the heated 2001 campaign to make San Francisco and adjacent Brisbane the two cities necessary for establishing a municipal utility district to replace PG&E. The measure lost narrowly in The City and was clobbered 4-1 in Brisbane.

The defeated plan was studded with flaky elements, such as replacing experienced energy professionals with citizen panels having no knowledge of administering public utilities. Of course it is possible to have a successful public power company. The Sacramento and Los Angeles MUDs were beacons of affordable rates during California’s botched deregulation scheme of 2000.

But perhaps the strongest argument against trying an alternative energy provider again in San Francisco is the sad example of city-operated Hetch Hetchy water system, where for decades successive municipal administrations balanced budgets by deferring much-needed maintenance. So now the public faces a multibillion-dollar replacement project.

General OpinionOpinion

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

California is set to receive supplies of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, which is still under review by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. (Courtesy photo)
California could receive 380K doses of new J&J COVID vaccine next week

California could receive 380,300 doses of the new Johnson & Johnson vaccine… Continue reading

Disability advocates protested outside the home of San Francisco Health Officer Tomas Aragon. (Courtesy Brooke Anderson)
Vaccine rollout plan for people with disabilities remains deeply flawed

On February 13, disability activists paid a visit to the house of… Continue reading

A Bay Area Concrete Recycling facility that opened on PG&E property in 2019. Former PG&E employees have been accused of accepting bribes from Bay Area Concrete. (Courtesy of Bay Area Concrete Recycling via ProPublica)
Lawsuit reveals new allegations against PG&E contractor accused of fraud

By Scott Morris Bay City News Foundation Utility giant Pacific Gas &… Continue reading

New protected bicycle lanes stretch from the city's Portola District to Bernal Heights. (Courtesy Bay City News)
City leaders celebrate protected bike lanes in city’s Portola, Bernal Heights neighborhoods

San Francisco city leaders on Thursday announced the completion of new protected… Continue reading

A short walk leads to the base of Yosemite Falls, requiring no snow gear except in heavy winter conditions. (Matt Johanson/Special to S.F. Examiner)
Snowy destinations abound in Yosemite winter

Those who journey to the mountains discover grand scenery, solitude .

Most Read