“If San Francisco is going to do a clean energy program, let’s do a real one,” Mayor Lee said in a statement announcing a shift in his priorities. The Chron reports that he has announced a directive to the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission to devise a renewable energy option, a serious change of heart from Lee's previous refusal to support a prior program. Now the mayor is making a case for a renewable energy program of his own, saying that “San Francisco’s clean energy program should not contract with an oil company with a dubious record of protecting the environment and human rights: We can do better.”
There, Lee is referring to CleanPowerSF, the clean energy program he opposed but that was approved by a veto-proof majority of the Board of Supervisors in 2013. It would have contracted with Shell Energy North America, taking public funds out of state, which was one of Lee's chief complaints. Though many were eager to see an effective end to Pacific Gas and Electric Co.'s longstanding monopoly on our consumer power market, appointees of the mayor on the SF Public Utilities Commission eventually stopped the program from going into effect. Lee also complained that the program wasn't green enough and wouldn't create enough jobs, arguing that the money could be better spent on other programs.
Now, Lee has named his conditions for a renewable energy plan, chief among them that it arrive soon. He'd like the plan by the end of the year, which must include details for local job creation and the construction of publicly owned power generation facilities, such as solar installations on city-owned land. Even more ambitious, Lee wants the renewable energy option to match PG&E's price for the sake of low-income San Franciscans. For the record, PG&E derives most of its energy from natural gas but is also working on a renewable-energy product of its own, as the Examiner notes.
A study commissioned by the Board of Supervisors has indicated that the Public Utilities Commission could purchase renewable energy itself with no need to return to the Shell contract. The report by energy consultants EnerNex found also that such a program could create upwards of 8,100 construction jobs in building $2.4 billion worth of proposed solar, wind and geothermal projects.
Supervisor John Avalos doesn't sound thrilled by Lee's change of heart, telling the Chronicle that "the mayor is now designing the program we've been working on for months.” He suggests that Lee is trying to co-opt the issue to help him in an election year.