San Francisco Calls for 360 MW Renewables

The San Francisco Board of Supervisors unanimously approved legislation to use the state’s “Community Choice” law to switch San Francisco residents and businesses to a new power supplier for electricity service – and to finance a network of renewable energy and energy conservation projects that aim to dramatically reduce dependency on natural gas and nuclear power plants.

San Francisco – May 13, 2004 [] The move follows a recent California Public Utilities Commission decision to make room for communities like San Francisco to break away from utility power contracts to control their own energy destiny under the Community Choice law (AB117, Migden), and answers a 2001 voter mandate for green power from San Francisco’s 2001 Solar Bond Authority, Proposition H. The Energy Independence ordinance directs 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 as soon as 2005, and building 360 Megawatts 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 electricity service. The City Controller’s office has agreed to assist in developing the analysis necessary to develop the draft implementation plan. Under Community Choice, power would be “wheeled” over PG&E’s lines. Ratepayers would also have the option to opt-out and remain with PG&E as their power supplier. The conversion, say proponents, would protect residents and businesses against increasingly volatile natural gas prices, assist in closing power plants that cause breast cancer and childhood asthma, and make the City a leader in the global effort to stop climate change. On an average day, San Francisco requires 650 Megawatts of power at night and 850 Megawatts during the day. A 360 Megawatt investment in green power as called for in the City’s adopted Electricity Resource Plan will far exceed the Renewable Portfolio Standard called for by state law. Electricity causes approximately 25% of the City’s total greenhouse gas emissions. The Community Choice law enables power providers to mix solar with less expensive resources such as energy efficiency technologies, bringing down the average price of the City’s portfolio of resources to be competitive with PG&E’s electric bills. “What is more, after it is paid off, this infrastructure will continue to provide power to San Franciscans at considerably lower rates for decades,” said Paul Fenn of Oakland-based Local Power, who authored the Community Choice law (Migden, 2002) and assisted Ammiano’s office in drafting both the 2001 “H Bond Authority” and the Energy Independence Ordinance. “Energy independence offers San Franciscans permanent protection against future energy crises, and hard savings that cannot be taken away.” Supervisor Ammiano sponsored the successful H Bond Authority for renewable energy and conservation projects in 2001. Proposition H, coupled with the proposed ordinance, will allow the City to finance the green power projects, allowing for a more gradual repayment of the solar, wind, conservation and efficiency investments without a rate increase. “This ordinance 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 work towards closing the City’s polluting power plants and make the City comply with the Kyoto Treaty, all at the same rates PG&E charges – now I call that a bargain.” Ammiano announced the Energy Independence ordinance at a City Hall press conference in February, joined by Fenn and some of the state’s green power and consumer protection leaders, including Sierra Club International Vice President Michele Perrault, California Wind Credit Law Tyrone Cashman, Sacramento Solar Program Architect Don Aitken, UC Berkeley Professor Dan Kammen, TURN representative Mindy Spatt, and Greenpeace USA representative Kristin Casper.


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