In yesterday's meeting, the Board of Supervisors voted 8-3 to approve CleanPowerSF — the city's first step in toppling PG&E's longstanding monopoly. In addition to offering a local customers the choice to switch to 100% renewable energy, the program also paves the way for the city to build out its own public power program.
In the short run, CleanPowerSF will allow the city to use $19.5 million in public funds to switch half of the city's residential power customers to renewable power provided by Shell for a five-year program. The premium for the green power is estimated to be anywhere from $9.50 to about $78 on your monthly bill, depending on how much PG&E power you're sucking up right now. According to the Public Utilities Commission, about 43% of customers will see their power bills go up by less than ten bucks if they make the switch. While the city needs about 90,000 of the 375,000 residential power customers to sign up in order for the program to be feasible, anyone who wants to stick with the PG&E status quo can opt-out for about five bucks during the first five months of the program.
In the long term, the program is designed to bring in revenue so the city can build out its own renewable energy infrastructure and wean itself off of private power companies altogether.
The 8-3 vote also provides a veto-proof majority for the program, assuming the vote breaks down the same when goes before the Board for final approval next week. Over at the Guardian, Boss Brugman points out that Mayor Lee — a noted PG&E fan — and Willie Brown the handsomely paid PG&E lobbyist will have a hard time putting a stop to the initiative that has been floating around City Hall in some form or another for the past decade or so. The Mayor's spokesperson told the Chronicle that Lee "thinks we can do better."
Voting against the initiative were Supervisors Mark Farrell, Carmen Chu and termed-out Sunset supe Sean Elsbernd, who was reportedly rather quiet during the debate. Farrell explained he objected because the program automatically signs up many customers for more expensive power bills. Although they will be allowed to opt out if they choose, Farrell said the opt-out provision "smells of coercion."
On the other hand, Supervisor David Campos, who apparently didn't realize what a big deal the vote was until he saw opposition groups trying to kill it, said of the vote, "I think we've sent a pretty clear message that we in San Francisco are an innovative city and care about our environment and about consumer choice."