LAFCo should launch CleanPowerSF


OPINION Last month, the Mayor's Office and San Francisco Public Utilities Commission (SFPUC) — largely at the mayor's behest — refused to launch CleanPowerSF, a program which is absolutely crucial to leading the country and the world to reverse the climate crisis (see "Power struggle," Sept. 18).

The Board of Supervisors must now use its state-granted authority to activate San Francisco's Local Agency Formation Commission (LAFCO) to launch CleanPowerSF, regardless of SFPUC.

CleanPowerSF plans currently waiting to be implemented would create 1,500 jobs a year for the next 10 years, and install over 400 megawatts of local clean electricity projects. By 2024, 50 percent of our electricity would be generated by such local clean installations.

The newest proposed rates for CleanPowerSF are now fully competitive with PG&E, and the SFPUC's staff (before the mayor intervened) was making unprecedented progress on the local clean energy installation plans. So at the SFPUC's Aug. 13 hearing on CleanPowerSF rate-setting, community and environmental advocates stood unanimously to urge that the program be launched.

For the mayor and SFPUC of what is supposed to be one of the most environmental cities on Earth to completely ignore those community advocates, and throw a monkey wrench into the launching of CleanPowerSF, is simply beyond the pale.

Thankfully, in its wisdom, when the 2002 California Legislature passed the Community Choice law that made CleanPowerSF possible, it put city councils and county boards legally in charge of such programs (not mayors).

So is not up to the Mayor's Office whether or not CleanPowerSF is launched. It is instead the job of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors. And in a resounding 9-2 vote on Sept. 17, the Board of Supervisors raked the SFPUC (and by extension, the mayor) over the coals for not initiating CleanPowerSF. The vote was in favor of Sup. London Breed's resolution demanding that the SFPUC obey the will of the board and launch CleanPowerSF immediately.

That's a great first step, but the board now needs to go beyond resolutions and take decisive action through LAFCo, its most powerful tool for moving CleanPowerSF. LAFCo is independent of city government, is funded and tasked to oversee new enterprise programs like CleanPowerSF, and four of its five members are elected supervisors.


This independent supermajority can check mayoral overreach, and the LAFCo's current board commissioners are John Avalos, David Campos, Eric Mar, and London Breed, all advocates of CleanPowerSF.

LAFCo was specifically given the budget and authority to act on CleanPowerSF when SFPUC fails to do so, and has already done this successfully in the past. When CleanPowerSF was first created in 2004, SFPUC refused to draft an implementation plan. In response, LAFCo stepped in with its own implementation plan and SFPUC, not wanting to lose influence, got back to work.

In 2011, SFPUC tried to sidetrack CleanPowerSF into only purchasing (but not building) clean power, refusing to fund planning work to establish a local installation and green jobs program. LAFCO stepped in to fund that work itself, and again SFPUC came back to the fold and hired Community Choice experts Local Power to do the work.

Now, yet again, SFPUC is refusing to do its job. Six months ago, it abruptly halted work on the local buildout and green jobs plan, and last month SFPUC put the whole program on hold by not setting rates.

LAFCo must now use its authority and leverage to both remove the rate-setting road block, and get the CleanPowerSF local buildout planning back on track. Eric Brooks is the sustainability chair of the San Francisco Green Party.


and Ed Lee knows he has their support. So he and the SFPUC are justified in seeking further negotiations and concessions because they have the people on their side regardless of what the Supervisors managed to ram though.

In fact, this should have gone to the voters, who have always rejected public power.

Say NO to Shell.

Posted by Guest on Sep. 24, 2013 @ 2:39 pm

Activists are working right now on the possibility of dumping the Shell contract.

Posted by Eric Brooks on Sep. 24, 2013 @ 8:41 pm

To debunk negative claims that will soon be made about CleanPowerSF's local clean energy portfolio, here is a the link to the most recent CleanPowerSF plan showing that CleanPowerSF will create 1500 jobs per year for the next ten years as it builds hundreds of megawatts of local clean energy and efficiency installations.

This plan was presented to the Environment Commission recently by its authors, Local Power.

The slides for that presentation are at:

Posted by Eric Brooks on Sep. 24, 2013 @ 9:01 pm

Soon posters will likely compare CleanPowerSF to 'public power'.

CleanPowerSF is not public power because it doesn't take over PG&E's power lines and line maintenance responsibilities.

CleanPowerSF simply gives consumers a choice in their -sources- of energy and the costs of those sources (which over time will be a -lot- lower than PG&E because renewables don't require fuel).

Posted by Eric Brooks on Sep. 24, 2013 @ 9:07 pm

To establish this clearly before claims are made to the contrary, follow the steps below to see that CleanPowerSF rates are now projected to meet or beat PG&E rates.

1) Go to

2) Next to the listed 08/06/13 hearing date click on 'Video'

3) Advance the video to the 1 hour, 34 minute, and 40 second mark (134.40) and then watch for one full minute.

In that minute, you will see SFPUC CleanPowerSF Director Kim Malcolm place a slide on the screen which clearly shows that the new projected rate for CleanPowerSF is between 9 and 11 cents per kilowatt hour; and that PG&E's rate will be 9 cents for dirty power and 11.5 cents for PG&E's proposed 'green option'.

You will also hear Director Malcolm make clear that PG&E's 'green option' will actually be around 12.5 cents by next year when CleanPowerSF is launched.

So. CleanPowerSF will beat PG&E hands down in a direct competition on clean energy prices, and will likely even deliver its clean power at rates matching PG&E's -dirty- power rate.

Posted by Eric Brooks on Sep. 24, 2013 @ 8:50 pm

Have the numbers been reviewed by any objective source, Eric?

It's all fine and good for the CleanPowerSF Director to just say what her rates (and PG&E's) are going to be, but don't things like this usually get reviewed?

Has this been?

Posted by Guest on Sep. 24, 2013 @ 10:23 pm

Where do you think the SFPUC gets the numbers in the first place? They don't just pull them out of a hat. They get them from state agencies like the California Public Utilities Commission whose specific job it is to keep track of energy prices.

Posted by Eric Brooks on Sep. 24, 2013 @ 10:39 pm

energy. We'd need a reason to believe it would be different here. Some people would be willing to pay an extra 15% to feel noble and chaste, but many will not or can not.

The gap might be lower given that a significant proportion of PG&E power is clean or clean'ish already, while the Shell scheme will not be 100% clean anyway.

Posted by Guest on Sep. 25, 2013 @ 8:30 am

The full life-cycle cost of clean energy sources is always lower than fossil fuel power because once the up front cost of renewable facilities is paid off, those facilities continue to produce essentially free energy for decades.

The claim that clean energy sources are more expensive is a parlor trick of the fossil fuel industry deceptively comparing only the up front costs of renewable installations, to the cost of fossil fuel power coming from plants that were already built decades ago (in which the costs of building the plants in the first place are completely left out of the equation).

But as soon as you factor in the entire lifetime of use of renewables vs fossil fuel, the fossil fuel sources are obviously more expensive because fossil fuel plants cost they same or more to build and then have to be fed fuel (which costs money) for the rest of time.

So the claim that clean energy costs more is not only false, but is in fact completely illogical.

Posted by Eric Brooks on Sep. 25, 2013 @ 9:02 am

Even the hopelessly left-wing UK Guardian admits that.

Posted by Guest on Sep. 25, 2013 @ 9:13 am

Again, what the levy is, up front, is irrelevant.

Over time, the UK will spend less on the renewables because the lifetime expense of those renewables is lower than the lifetime expense of fossil fuel energy.

The elimination of constantly buying and burning fuel is what creates the savings.

So a 15% levy in the near term is a good investment because it saves more expense in the future.

Posted by Eric Brooks on Sep. 25, 2013 @ 9:38 am

salut ça va j'ai lue cet article c'est vraiment riche, bon continuation merci

Posted by Guest on Sep. 27, 2013 @ 1:15 am

PG&E funds mayoral campaigns. Period. No sitting mayor will ever go against PG&E.

The people of this city want to be able to CHOOSE green energy. We would also like to build out a lot of local green solar and wind generation. This is very possible. It's not rocket science. But PG&E and their friends at the Chamber do not want us to be able to do those things. They seem to be motivated by a combination of greed and just mean-spiritedness. They don't have to be this evil, they are just choosing to do so.

So we are at an impasse. PG&E uses the money we pay for overpriced electricity to continue to screw us by buying politicians and flooding us with untruthful ads and PR hacks who post on boards like this.

It will change. Stay tuned to this one.

Posted by Guest on Sep. 27, 2013 @ 2:27 pm

Dump the Shell Contract. Commit to building green/solar infrastructute in the city. Stipulate maintaining and expanding Hetch Hetchy capacity. Most of all, force PG&E to purchase residential solar power.
Now that is a CleanPowerSF I could get behind. Otherwise - OPT OUT!

Posted by Richmondman on Sep. 27, 2013 @ 3:35 pm

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