Renewable Energy Boom in San Francisco

Joined by consumer groups, environmental groups and international leaders in renewable energy, San Francisco city officials announced new legislation this week to use the state’s “Community Choice” law, in conjunction with the City’s 2001 Voter-Approved solar “H Bond” Authority, to switch San Francisco to a new supplier for electricity service and build enough solar photovoltaic installations, wind turbines, efficiency and conservation installations, and hydrogen technologies to power 1/4 of the community with green power before the end of the decade.

San Francisco, California – February 20, 2004 [] The new legislation also creates the opportunity to answer calls from City neighborhoods to close the polluting Hunter’s Point and Portrero power plants. Supervisor Tom Ammiano announced his “Energy Independence Ordinance” with co-sponsors – Board President Matt Gonzalez and Supervisor Sophie Maxwell (representing Hunter’s Point) – flanked by Local Power Founder & Director Paul Fenn (, Sierra Club Int’l Vice President Michele Perrault, California Wind Credit Law architect Tyrone Cashman, Sacramento Solar Architect Donald Aitken, UC Berkeley Professor Daniel Kammen, Greenpeace USA and TURN at a City Hall press conference. A recent California Public Utilities Commission decision makes room for communities like San Francisco to break away from utility power contracts to control their own energy destiny under the 2002 California Community Choice law (AB117, Migden). The Energy Independence ordinance orders city departments to prepare an Implementation Plan and Request for Proposals for the Board of Supervisors to solicit new Electric Service Providers interested in supplying power to San Franciscans and meeting the City’s adopted goal of building 361 MW of new solar photovoltaic installations, distributed generation such as fuel cells, wind turbines, hydrogen, energy efficiency and conservation technologies as standard components of the City’s new electricity service. The conversion, says proponents, would protect residents and businesses against increasingly volatile fossil fuel prices, close power plants that cause breast cancer and childhood asthma, and make the City a world leader in the global effort to stop climate change. On an average day San Francisco requires 650 MW of power at night and 850 MW during the day, making the 361 MW investment in green power perhaps the most dramatic urban conversion to green power technologies ever. While some components of the new service, such as solar cells, are more expensive than conventional power sources, the Community Choice law enables power providers to mix solar with less expensive energy efficiency technologies, to make the average price of the city’s portfolio of resources competitive with PG&E’s electric bills. “What is more, after it is paid off, this infrastructure will continue to provider power to San Franciscans at radically lower rates for decades,” said Paul Fenn of Oakland-based Local Power, who drafted the Energy Independence ordinance with Ammiano’s office, as well as San Francisco’s 2001 H Bond Authority, and California’s 2002 Community Choice law. “Energy Independence offers San Franciscans permanent protection against future energy crises.” The H Bond Authority, which was also sponsored by Supervisor Ammiano for the successful Proposition H vote in 2001, allows the City to finance the green power components over ten years, for gradual repayment of the solar, wind, conservation and efficiency investments so that the more expensive components need not result in higher rates. “This will offer a kind of insurance against wildly fluctuating energy prices and permanently reduce the amount of power San Franciscans need to buy from the grid,” said Ammiano. “We can close the city’s polluting power plants, make the city comply with the Kyoto Treaty and permanently lower rates for our residents and businesses, all at the same rates PG&E charges – now I call that a bargain.”


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