Recurrent Energy project passed on 7-4 vote

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By Rebecca Bowe

The Board of Supervisors voted 7 to 4 this afternoon to approve a 25-year power purchase agreement with Recurrent Energy, a private firm that plans to construct a 5-megawatt photovoltaic array at the Sunset Reservoir. Supervisors John Avalos, David Campos, Chris Daly and Ross Mirkarimi voted against the agreement, voicing concerns that the city would be locked into a bad financial deal for years to come and asserting that the city could strike a better deal with Recurrent. Part of the problem, Mirkarimi noted, is that the city would be locked into paying a fixed price for solar energy even if the going rate drops significantly in coming years.

The Guardian has weighed in on the project at several junctures. While everyone at the table believes that the end goal is laudable – adding 5 megawatts of clean energy to the city’s renewable portfolio – Supervisors Mirkarimi and Campos have expressed opposition to contract terms that they say would ultimately sell San Francisco ratepayers short. At a joint meeting between LAFCo and the SFPUC on April 24, Mirkarimi also worried that the Recurrent Energy project could undercut the efforts of San Francisco’s fledgling Community Choice Aggregation initiative.

The power purchase agreement was originally put forth by Mayor Gavin Newsom and Supervisor Carmen Chu. Chu advocated strongly for it during today’s meeting, saying she believed it was a good deal and noting that it would create 71 jobs.

Daly weighed in heavily against it, calling the deal a politicized “rush job.” The result, in his opinion, is that “we get electricity that is green, but it is too expensive to give anyone else the opportunity to do it too. … Going green doesn’t mean going green stupid. If it seems like gymnastics for a deal, there is a better way.”