Power struggle - Page 2

Mayor Lee misrepresents CleanPowerSF in defending his appointees' effort to kill it

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Lee and other critics of the program decried the program's cost of more than 14 cents per kilowatt-hour, while supporters worried the price would cause more customers to opt-out, so the SFPUC decided to allow more RECs, while also substantially increasing the amount of guaranteed green power.

"The difference between buckets two and three is not that big a difference," Fried said, noting the Bucket 2 can actually include a substantial amount of dirty energy. "It really depends on how you're firming and shaping."

So the SFPUC increased the size of Bucket 1 to 25 percent and Bucket 3 to 75 percent, with idea being that RECs are only an interim step toward issuance of revenue-bonds to build renewable energy projects that would eventually fill Bucket 1 to overflowing. All for the not-to-exceed rate of 11.5 cents per kilowatt-hour that the SFPUC is refusing to approve.

"Our entire mix would be 100 percent greenhouse-gas-free, but the mayor is ignoring that because it doesn't fit his 'green' argument," Fried said, also noting that it would be generated in-state by union workers. "PG&E can't make that same claim."

CPUC statistics show PG&E derives less than the state-mandated 20 percent of its energy from clean, renewable sources, and that the percentage of its portfolio that is greenhouse gas-free actually dropped in 2012, to 51 percent from 59 percent in 2011. And despite Lee's emphasis on local jobs, PG&E's three largest solar projects built in 2012 are outside California.

By contrast, CPSF contractor Shell Energy North America wrote in an Aug. 12 letter that in addition to setting aside $1.5 million for local buildout after its first year, which "should create local jobs," it is now negotiating in-state wind and hydroelectric ("operated by union labor") contracts to meet the program's demands.

But at this point, supporters of the program are running out of options to get that contract approved.

 

"CHARTER CRISIS"

CleanPowerSF has broad political support in San Francisco, from Sups. David Campos, John Avalos, and other progressives, to moderates including Sup. Scott Wiener and state Sen. Mark Leno, who authored legislation to protect nascent CCAs from PG&E meddling and has been a steadfast supporter of CleanPowerSF.

"There's a constitutional crisis, or a [City] Charter crisis, of sorts," Leno said, referring to the standoff. "The legislative body has been unequivocal in its desire to proceed and it's not for this commission to interfere with that decision."

Leno said PG&E and its allies have played strong behind-the-scenes roles in sabotaging this program. "They are definitely exerting their influence," Leno said, "they have never stopped trying to derail this." SFPUC Chair Art Torres, who is leading the obstruction, didn't return a Guardian call for comment.

If there is a silver lining, Leno said it's that "PG&E has had to present its own version of green energy. But the two can coexist. We want competition."

So does Fried, LAFCo, and all of the supervisors who sit on that commission, which has long tried to break PG&E's monopoly.

"It's close to checkmate, but we're trying to breathe new life into this," Sup. John Avalos, who sits on LAFCo, told us. "Part of the politics can be seen in the mayor's statements, which are full of misinformation."

Sup. David Campos, also on LAFCo, told us CleanPowerSF is "a good program, and it's consistent with what the Board of Supervisors approved. I think it's a mistake for the city not to move on this and it's a bad thing for consumers."

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