CleanPowerSF draws questions

(KTSF by Jessie Liang)

San Francisco, CA – The proposed CleanPowerSF offers customers 100% renewable energy including solar, wind and etc.. But the program also has raised more questions among public and policymakers.

The State of California had a large-scale blackout more than 10 years ago. In 2002, the state launched the “Community Choice Aggregation” law which allows cities and counties to purchase their own electricity. CleanPowerSF is allowed under this law. But why would customers be automatically  enrolled in a  program rather than opt-in? Tyrone Jue, the spokesman for San Francisco Public Utilities Commission (SFPUC) says, “If you’re a new energy provider, you’re already at the severe disadvantage of  opening up in the market. So that’s why they structured the program to work the other way around.”


CleanPowerSF is touted as providing 100% renewable energy, but one environmentalist questioned if the program is really sustainable when intermittent renewable energy sources are not available. Charles Sheehan, the spokesman for SFPUC Power Enterprise explains, “Even when it’s down time, what you do is firm and shape up that energy with another resource like hydro electric energy, or some other resource, sometimes natural gas resource. So you make sure that you are meeting your customers’ needs and demands at that time.”

The program launch would cost the City $19.5 Million. That  includes the contract with Shell North America to purchase renewable energy for CleanPowerSF and a reserve fund for the program’s potential risks. The estimated 230,000 homes will be automatically signed up for the program but only 2/3 customers would remain with CleanPowerSF.

Mayor Ed Lee said that he has a concern about the financial  risks involved in this program. The Board of Supervisors President David Chiu says that he needs to wait for the report from the Board of Supervisors Budget and Finance Committee before making any comment. “There’s questions that people have about expense, environmental factors related to this, about who is exactly going to benefit. And I think we expect those questions to be answered in the coming weeks or month,” said Chiu.

Supervisors Carmen Chiu and Eric Mar support the green program but they also have concerns about the cost of launching the program, the rate customers pay and the right of opting-out. The Board of Supervisors plans to vote for CleanPowerSF in late February or March.

(Copyright 2012 KTSF.  All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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