S.F. renewable energy rates finally set for vote

August 13, 2013 by  
Filed under Green Energy News

Stop us if you’ve heard this one before, but a key Public Utilities Commission vote for San Francisco’s renewable energy program is finally set for Tuesday. Maybe.

For months, the city’s PUC has put off a vote on setting maximum rates for CleanPowerSF, a program that will be run by the city to deliver greener energy to San Franciscans who are currently Pacific Gas Electric Co. customers. But PUC spokesman Tyrone Jue said it appears that a vote is “really happening” this week, now that PUC staff has done more outreach to labor groups as requested by commissioners in July.

Originally intended to launch in October, CleanPowerSF was approved last fall by the Board of Supervisors when they agreed to a five-year, $19.5 million contract with Shell Energy North America, with plans to build a customer base for a future city-owned renewable power program. Now it will be at least April 2014 before half of the city’s 375,000 residential customers will be automatically enrolled in the more expensive but greener CleanPowerSF, unless they opt out.

Pushing the vote back any further would result in “delayed implementation of the SFPUC CleanPowerSF Community Choice Aggregation program,” according to a PUC staff report.

Last month commissioners told staff they wanted to see rates reduced to only an average of $5.29 more a month for most residential customers, low enough to match a proposed green option by PGE that is waiting for state approval. Originally, CleanPowerSF rates proposed by staff would have had customers paying about double the PGE rate.

Commission President Art Torres said at the meeting that he wanted staff to go “back to the drawing board” with labor groups that say CleanPowerSF won’t create enough jobs.

The leader of a local electricians’ union that has run a “Stop the Shell Shock” campaign against CleanPowerSF said the talks have been “productive.”

“I think it was really helpful for us to explain what our workers’ interests are and for them to also explain more of the ideas on how it should go forward and how it will be implemented,” said Hunter Stern, the business representative for International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 1245.

But talking it out didn’t change the union’s hope that CleanPowerSF never gets off the ground.

However, backers of the program plan to show up in force for Tuesday’s vote. Former Environmental Protection Agency Administrator William Reilly will appear at a 12:30 p.m. rally at City Hall led by several green advocacy groups.

“CleanPowerSF will be instrumental at moving our city forward on preventing climate disruption and putting city residents to work,” said Michelle Myers, director of the Sierra Club’s San Francisco Bay Chapter, in a statement.

- Neal J. Riley

Pedal power: Bay Area residents – at least those who live or work in San Francisco and the Peninsula – who’ve been waiting impatiently for the start of the Bay Area Bike Share system can finally get ready to ride.

The Bay Area Air Quality Management District, which is coordinating the five-city, 70-station, 700-bike program, has announced that it will roll to a start on Aug. 29.

Half of the bikes will be located in and around San Francisco’s downtown, Financial District, northeast neighborhoods, Civic Center and South of Market, with the rest in Redwood City, Palo Alto, Mountain View and San Jose.

The idea behind bike-sharing, which has taken off in major cities around the world and in recent years in the U.S., is to provide bikes for people to take short rides, often to or from transit.

The cost of riding the baby-blue bikes will be $88 for an annual pass, $22 for a three-day pass and $9 for a daily pass. Each allows unlimited rides of up to 30 minutes. Trips that exceed 30 minutes will cost extra. Annual memberships are available at www.bayareabikeshare.com, where more information is also available.

- Michael Cabanatuan

E-mail: cityinsider@sfchronicle.com Twitter: @SFCityInsider

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