Residents and businesses can sign up now for 100 percent renewable power
By Tim Redmond
There hasn’t been a lot of news media attention to it, but the city’s clean power agency is up and running, and you can sign up today to get 100 percent green energy to replace PG&E, starting next spring.
Jason Fried, director of the city’s Local Agency Formation Commission, which has spearheaded CleanPowerSF, told me that the first renewable power will probably be delivered in February or March, depending on billing schedules.
Under the program, the city will buy renewable energy in bulk and deliver it to households and businesses using PG&E’s lines. Residents will automatically be enrolled in a program that offers between 33 and 50 percent renewable energy, at rates equal to or below those of PG&E.
PG&E and its allies will, of course, try to get customers to “opt out” (and have already tried to undermine the city’s ability to market clean power, although the sponsors of the pro-PG&E ballot measure have withdrawn their ballot argument stopped campaigning for it.)
The main program will roll out gradually, starting in the southeastern part of the city, where residents will automatically start to see lower power bills.
But there’s another option: For just a tiny bit more than what PG&E charges, San Franciscans can sign up for a fully-renewable program.
And either way, you can start getting clean energy the minute the program launches, no matter where you live, by signing up here. All you need is a copy of your last PG&E bill.
Why does it matter? Two reasons.
First, PG&E is never going to meet even the modest state standards for renewable energy. (Oh, and by the way, the company operates a nuclear power plant on an earthquake fault, which has not worked out all that well in other places.)
So while the oil companies have blocked strong climate-change legislation in Sacramento, San Francisco can do a lot on its own, and this is a centerpiece.
But this is also the beginning of a long, long overdue move to start replacing PG&E with city-owned and operated public power. You can read about the history of this scandal here; PG&E was never supposed to operate a private monopoly in this city, and the entire reason we have a water system with a dam in a national park is because environmentalists compromised with public-power advocates to allow Hetch Hetchy Valley to be flooded – as long as the dam also generated electric power to be used to prevent PG&E from getting a beachhead in Northern California.
We all know that, over time, only public-power agencies are going to be able to severely reduce not only greenhouse gases but power consumption in general. PG&E will never accept, for example, widespread rooftop solar, because that would eventually put the company out of business (or reduce it to a small grid operator).
And while the company talks a nice line about conservation, the reality is that every time electricity consumption goes down, PG&E’s revenue declines. And investor-owned companies don’t like revenue declines.
The revenue from CleanPowerSF will be used to build out local renewable-generation facilities, which the city can use to create its own power, supplementing what we get from Hetch Hetchy. Over time, there will be less and less need for PG&E except as the owner of the grid – and there’s no reason the city, with an adequate revenue stream to back it, can’t start issuing bonds to replace the private utility’s aging and unreliable lines with modern publicly owned equipment.
PG&E, in other words, has a vested interest in seeing CleanPowerSF fail. The mayor is now officially backing the project, but was very dubious at first, and I would say his support is lukewarm at best.
So the most powerful statement the residents of the city can make in favor of renewable energy (and ultimately public power) is to sign up, now.