Harrington finally brings CleanPowerSF to City Hall, hoping his SFPUC legacy will be a city that produces its own renewable energy
Another $2 million would fund CleanPowerSF customers' energy efficiency programs; $2 million would help customers install solar panels; and $2 million would be spent on the study to determine how best to build out the portfolio of renewable energy plants owned by San Francisco. The rest of the money would cover operating and startup expenses, and it could be recouped later through power sales.
In a town where PG&E wields tremendous political and financial influence, proposing to gamble public funds establishing a competitor to the company is always sure to be thoroughly scrutinized, if not outright opposed and criticized. Supporters of the program, however, say that the gamble is a safe and necessary one that could have sweeping workforce and economic benefits.
"I don't think that we can afford not to do CCA," said Sup. David Campos, the program's most active supporter on the Board of Supervisors. "So long as something like CCA is not in place, PG&E will continue to be the only game in town. I think it's important for us to give consumers in San Francisco an alternative to PG&E."
CleanPowerSF has long suffered an identity crisis that has harmed its prospects of legislative approval. Opponents deride it as a public power scheme and they work on behalf of PG&E to quash it. But ardent public power supporters do not see it that way: They consider CleanPowerSF to be little more than a minor stepping stone toward public power, and they have not rallied around it nearly as much as they have rallied around some of the storied yet unsuccessful public power campaigns of years past.
If Harrington can clinch lawmaker approval for CleanPowerSF before he retires, he will have provided city residents with a lasting choice in what kind of electricity they buy.
"I think that any effort to compete with PG&E is seen as public power," Campos said. "But this is really about providing a choice."