Campaign Accelerates for Renewable Energy in San Francisco

Advocates of solar energy are accelerating their campaign to encourage public funding for renewables in San Francisco.

SAN FRANCISCO, California, US, 2001-09-27 [] The ballot for municipal elections on November 6 will include an initiative called Prop B which, if approved, would allow the city to issue a revenue bond for US$100 million. The funds would be used to purchase solar PV panels for city facilities, allowing the local government to use green power and to use the cost savings to pay back the bond. Some of the money would be used to buy wind turbines and to undertake energy conservation measures. The campaign for the ‘Solar Revenue Bond’ has launched a website, where supporters can request a yard or window sign, sign up for email updates or donate money to the campaign. “California’s over-dependence on fossil fuels has led to skyrocketing energy prices, profiteering and rolling blackouts,” explains Adam Browning. “Prop B will increase San Francisco’s energy independence, combat global warming, reduce toxic air pollution and provide a boost for the solar industry.” Since the bond would be paid from energy savings, taxpayers would not fund the measure, but San Francisco would use renewable energy to improve the environment. The city government consumes 160 MW of electricity, about 15 percent of the total consumption in San Francisco. The Solar Revenue Bond would finance 40 MW for PV panels to be installed on rooftops of city facilities inside the city or for wind turbines to be located on civic property in Alameda and San Mateo Counties. Three years ago, the city spent $7 million on electricity; last year, the cost rose to $39 million. Solar projects would receive $50 million in funding, with $30 million for wind and $2 million for energy efficiency projects. A reserve fund of $8 million would be established, while $8 million is earmarked for capitalized interest and $1.5 million for the costs of issuing the bond and an underwriter’s discount. A bond of $100 million would “likely” attract a solar PV factory to San Francisco, creating new jobs and a new economic base. As the largest solar bond in the U.S., the measure would also help reduce the cost of solar energy across the country by significantly increasing demand and encouraging investment in new manufacturing and assembly facilities, say campaign documents. “By passing this initiative, San Francisco will create an environmentally friendly, fiscally sound model that can be used by other cities across the nation interested in building energy independence while fighting global warming,” it explains. “Be a part of the solution. Vote Yes on B and help San Francisco create a model program for cities across the nation to follow.” “Solar energy facilities and equipment, energy conservation facilities and equipment and/or renewable energy facilities and equipment provide viable means to produce safe energy resources for various agencies, departments and enterprises of the City,” reads the ballot measure. “The cost that City departments, agencies and/or enterprises will incur over the life of the technologies shall not exceed the amount that such entities would have otherwise paid for such absent the improvements and/or facilities to be financed with the proposed Bonds.” “The Board hereby finds and determines that the acquisition, construction, rehabilitation, installation and/or improvement of solar energy facilities and equipment, energy conservation facilities and equipment and/or renewable energy facilities and equipment is necessary and desirable to enable the City to exercise its municipal powers and functions, namely, to produce renewable energy facilities, to conserve energy, and to provide a reliable source of energy for any present or future beneficial use of the City,” it continues. City departments purchase electricity at an average cost of 3.75c/kWh, while the Port and the Airport pay 12 to 15c/kWh. The solar facilities would generate power at 10c/kWh through a combination of on-site power generation, which might be reduced by additional subsidies, and which could be lower than prevailing retail rates in future. Officials add that on-site generation with PV panels would further reduce the average costs by reducing the amount of electricity that is lost through transmission. The bonds would bear interest at a rate of 6.5 percent over their estimated 25 year life, which would generate total interest of $103 million. The calculations do not reflect any funding from the federal or state government to subsidize the program. Elected officials that publicly support Prop. B include federal senator Diane Feinstein and congressmen Nancy Pelosi and Tom Lantos, state senators John Burton and Jackie Speier, state assemblyman Kevin Shelley, ten supervisors of the city, its treasurer, assessor, sheriff, District Attorney and Public Defender. Among the organizations that have pledged support include the American Lung Association, CALPIRG, the California League of Conservation Voters, Center for Energy Efficiency & Renewable Technologies, Coalition for Clean Air, Congress of California Seniors, Democratic Women’s Forum, Environmental Defense, Episcopal Power & Light, Greenpeace USA, Irish American Democratic Club, Natural Resources Defense Council, Neighborhood Parks Council, Public Citizen, San Francisco Chamber of Commerce, San Francisco Democratic Party, San Francisco Green Party, San Francisco Labor Council, San Francisco League of Conservation Voters, Sierra Club, and Union of Concerned Scientists, among others. To vote in the November municipal election, city residents must register by October 22.
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