Beating the reaper - Page 2

S.F.'s clean energy program clears a key milestone in its race against Prop. 16


A month-long review period is expected to follow.

"Today was an announcement of a very critical milestone," Mirkarimi, who chairs LAFCo, noted after the meeting. "I'm delighted to see us turn a corner, and I think ... having a term-sheet signed, having a CCA implementation plan approved by the CPUC, and having literature sent out in three different languages to 250,000 households in San Francisco is all a testament that we are, as a city, absolutely serious in implementing and delivering our clean power energy program."

He nonetheless kept cracking the whip on advancing the goals of the program during the meeting. "Any hiccup whatsoever on timelines is a dangerous hiccup," Mirkarimi said.

"We fully expect to meet all deadlines," Harrington responded.

Public power advocate Eric Brooks, who has helped move the CCA program forward since the outset, expressed trepidation at a stakeholders meeting about the SFPUC's commitment to the program, saying he believed that the city could have cleared the deadline months earlier without having to worry about Prop. 16 as a deadline.

Brooks advocated for Local Power, Fenn's firm and a city contractor, to play a more central role in program design, saying that as long as the SFPUC remained at the helm, the program would be shaped by "the same inside-the-box thinking" and limited enthusiasm.


Despite recent leaps forward, the common wisdom around City Hall is that CleanPower SF is nonetheless unlikely to escape PG&E's litigious wrath — particularly if Prop. 16 gets a thumbs up at the polls. If it passed, Prop. 16 would become effective immediately, according to the City Attorney's Office.

"It's not a foregone conclusion that Prop 16 will pass," City Attorney's Office spokesperson Matt Dorsey pointed out. And if it does? "In our view," he said, "San Francisco has already implemented its CCA program," making it capable of withstanding a legal challenge.

"We are talking to the city attorney every single day," Harrington noted during a recent SFPUC stakeholders meeting.

But Fenn warned that a complicated lawsuit could still inflict damage. "Litigation processes can outlast political possibility," he cautioned. "San Francisco may be caught up in the courts." Or, if Prop 16 passes and the program moves forward as planned, "[CCA] might be a weird new variant that only exists in San Francisco and Marin."

Marin County's CCA program is already up and running, and the Marin Energy Authority recently began providing power to its customers. PG&E — which is bound by state law to "cooperate fully" with CCA implementation — fought it by contacting customers to persuade them to opt out of the program via mailers sent in violation of CPUC laws that only allow CCAs to solicit opt-outs. PG&E earned a sharp rebuke in a May 3 letter from CPUC executive director Paul Clanon, specifically warning the company to "refrain from sending any mailers of this nature in the future."

On May 12, Clanon was back with a second letter. "On May 4, PG&E mailed a letter to every customer that had not opted out of MEA's service, formatted in a manner that directly conflicts with the direction I provided to PG&E just one day earlier," he wrote. This time, he warned the utility that it was "in danger of the commission's imposing significant and continuing fines and other penalties."

PG&E responded by saying the mass mailing of illegal opt-out notices had been an accident, and apologized. "They accidentally licked envelopes, accidentally stuck the stamps, and accidentally sent them out?" asked an incredulous Ben Zolno, a Prop 16 opponent, in a phone conversation with the Guardian.

"Nobody quite remembers PG&E acting so outrageously," Sen.


Community Clean Energy Victory Not Yet Assured - Write SFPUC Chief!!

Unfortunately, the SFPUC staff is still falling all over itself in absurd attempts to weaken and delay the clean energy contract. Most notable are two key problems:

1) The SFPUC is still attempting to pass a contract that will -phase- in the customer base of the CleanPowerSF program foolishly leaving a majority out of the initial contract and service. If that happens, when we afterward attempt to bring the -remaining- customers into the program, under Prop 16 this will be an 'expansion' of CCA electricity service, and therefore subject to a two thirds vote of the entire City. This would kill the program, period.

2) The SFPUC is still attempting to completely gut the contract of requirements for Power Choice to actually build, with revenue bonds, local, City owned renewable energy and efficiency installations. These are the cornerstone of CleanPowerSF and without building them, the City will own nothing at all. The whole point of CleanPowerSF is to make San Francisco the direct owner of over half of its electricity generation thus making full municipalization the obvious next step. That won't happen if the SFPUC staff gets away with its nonsense and the contract has no construction mandates.

Readers should contact SFPUC head Ed Harrington at and demand a stronger contract process with Local Power at the helm.

Posted by Eric Brooks on May. 26, 2010 @ 1:10 am