San Francisco to Invest $100 Million in Renewable Energy

Residents in San Francisco have overwhelmingly voted to become the ‘solar capital’ of the United States.

SAN FRANCISCO, California, US, 2001-11-14 [] Seventy-four percent of voters favored the Solar Revenue Bond, or Proposition B, that will issue US$100 million in revenue bonds to install solar and wind energy facilities on city buildings. The ballot required a simple majority to pass and sponsors say the measure will allow San Francisco to generate more solar electricity than any other city in the country, despite its frequent fog cover. The funding will result in the installation, within three years, of 10 to 12 megawatts of photovoltaic capacity on city buildings such as the General Hospital, Moscone Convention Center and State University. Another 30 MW of wind capacity will be located on civic property in Alameda and San Mateo Counties. The municipal government currently consumes 160 MW of electricity. The Solar Revenue Bond measure also includes funding for energy efficiency technologies. Because the bonds will be repaid through energy savings from solar installations and from efficiency improvements, the measure will not result in higher taxes. The voting day forecast for bad weather indicated a low turnout election, which often means a conservative vote for the status quo. But local organizers for the two propositions spent the final weeks of the campaign calling residents and distributing leaflets in public transit stations to secure victory for a solar energy future in San Francisco. Solar activists are encouraged that this proposition will also serve as a model for other U.S. cities to increase the use of renewable energy. The city of Sacramento, Califonia currently is the largest municipal generator of solar energy in the U.S., with 8 MW of solar PV. “This was an organization that came together for the occassion of this campaign, but it is populated by people who are really jazzed about making this happen across the country”, said Adam Browning, an organizer for Proposition B. “I think this model–getting public institutions to use municipal bonds to cost-effectively fund the switch to renewable energy–is a winner.” Another measure supporting renewable energy, Proposition H, passed by a slim margin. Prop H will amend the city charter to allow the Board of Supervisors to issue revenue bonds for renewable energy and conservation projects without first seeking voter approval. Revenue bonds that invest in affordable housing, airport projects and port-related development are all exempt from the voter approval requirement. Both Prop B and Prop H were placed on the ballot by supervisors of the city. Both had support of local environmental groups and the city’s Chamber of Commerce. The election results were welcomed by the local utility, Pacific Gas & Electric, which said the measure “will promote the development of new, alternative electric generation.” The PG&E official line continued, “The voters clearly recognized that increased generation and conservation are vital to ensuring adequate, reliable power supplies for local residents and businesses, and this vote represents part of a real solution to the energy crisis.”
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