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A platoon of union workers in loud, matching outfits is nearly as regular a City Hall sight as bridal parties in loud, matching outfits. And, on a recent Monday, members of the Laborers' Local No. 261 gathered outside Room 250; resplendent in traffic-cone-orange T-shirts, their muted Spanish conversations echoed through the halls of power. They were just part of an odd consortium of environmentalists and organizers. This disparate group was united in its concern that the city's ingeniously titled CleanPowerSF program — San Francisco's latest and most promising attempt to wean itself away from Pacific Gas & Electric — is in danger of shorting itself out.

This was not a message lost on Supervisor David Campos, one of CleanPowerSF's most ardent backers. "At times, I do wonder who's doing more to kill this program: PG&E or [CleanPowerSF] advocates," he grumbles. "The ironic thing about politics is sometimes there's a strange confluence of two extremes at some point meeting each other."

Al Weinrub, seen here with Bay Localize interns Michelle Woo (left) and Tatiana Chaterji, likens the PUC’s approach to CleanPowerSF to opening up a business and then devising a business plan.
Corrine Van Hook
Al Weinrub, seen here with Bay Localize interns Michelle Woo (left) and Tatiana Chaterji, likens the PUC’s approach to CleanPowerSF to opening up a business and then devising a business plan.
Supervisor David Campos worries a marriage of convenience has formed between those willing to destroy CleanPowerSF to save it and those happy to merely destroy it.
Mike Koozmin
Supervisor David Campos worries a marriage of convenience has formed between those willing to destroy CleanPowerSF to save it and those happy to merely destroy it.
Paul Fenn invented the Community Choice Aggregation model— but San Francisco’s “CCA” won’t be initiated in the style he drew up.
David Briggs
Paul Fenn invented the Community Choice Aggregation model— but San Francisco’s “CCA” won’t be initiated in the style he drew up.

Possibly. Or, perhaps the ironic thing is that a program intended to fulfill the ur-San Francisco desires of environmentalists to establish clean, local energy, union workers to build it, and PG&E-hating politicos to unhorse the monopolistic utility has come under attack from those same parties for potentially doing none of this. A program envisioned as doing everything for everybody may do nothing for nobody.

Success for CleanPowerSF would differentiate it from previous efforts: Generations of San Franciscans have seen innovative energy alternatives trumped by an utter inability to make it happen. PG&E — anointed by Mayor Ed Lee "a great company that gets it" — has powered the city from the first Gilded Age to the current one. Serial failed efforts to alter the status quo at the ballot box were mounted by a rotating cast of progressive politicians backed by the element of the city's left flank for whom public power is both the raison d'être and a cure-all.

CleanPowerSF — which didn't require the costly and futile frontal assault of yet another electoral campaign — has been in the city's pipeline since the mid-1990s. And, like the America's Cup, it's a study in grand promises leading to diminished expectations. For years, it was touted as a pillar of the city's lofty goal of achieving 100 per cent renewable energy by 2020 while meeting or beating PG&E's rates — all while providing a cleaner product to a vastly smaller market and competing against a politically juiced company with a century of experience in the field.

That vision of the program has largely evaporated. In September, the Board of Supervisors, via a crucial mayoral veto-proof majority, greenlit a five-year contract with Shell — one of the world's largest energy companies. When the Shell deal is finalized, the city will begin purchasing 20 to 30 megawatts of "100 per cent renewable" power. That's only around 5 per cent of San Francisco's average residential usage, but it does move the city's Public Utilities Commission into the residential electric game.

Far from meeting or beating the status quo, CleanPowerSF customers should anticipate paying roughly double the PG&E rate for electricity generation, based on tentative PUC numbers. Monthly bills are expected to be augmented by between $10 to $83, depending on customers' usage; PUC officials now liken the "premium product" to organic groceries. Those objecting to organic prices must proactively opt out.

Coherent explanations of how to advance from this initial stage to the proposed "local build-out" — transforming San Francisco into the Ecotopia pined for by labor and environmentalists alike — have evaporated as well. Accordingly, as Campos indicated, some of the advocates who lobbied most fervently for CleanPowerSF leading up to the September vote are now the program's bitterest detractors — and complain that they served as a political smokescreen.


"There is no reason to do this if not for the build-out," says Al Weinrub, author of Community Power: Decentralized Renewable Energy in California. "The PUC has a concept of build-out that allows them to sign a contract with Shell before we know what the fuck we're doing. Who starts up a business, opens up the doors, then says 'Let's figure out our business plan?'"

Howard Ash makes a similar (though less profane) point. Confronted at a mid-March meeting by some of the very same union men, environmentalists, and organizers who'd later draw Campos' ire, the Rate Fairness Board member shook his head.

Nobody, Ash wryly observed, was speaking favorably anymore about CleanPowerSF — except for the city officials tasked to run it. Ash asked Public Utilities Commission staffers for a plan — a spreadsheet, anything — charting how the PUC would transition from merely contracting with Shell to achieving a local build-out which would supply the city with vast quantities of renewable power, energy independence, and jobs, jobs, jobs: the basis on which elected officials were sold on this program and the city continues to sell it to prospective customers.

He was told it doesn't exist.

After decades as a gleam in the eye of public-power advocates and years as the city's official energy policy, CleanPowerSF lacks a plan to achieve the build-out that justifies its existence — and without which the real promise of jobs and unambiguously clean energy won't come. Instead, warns Ash, the PUC's current approach is "a trap." High proposed initial rates could spur an exodus of customers from CleanPowerSF, but lowering them undercuts the revenue stream with which to fund a build-out. "I don't see how you get out of that box," Ash says. "I'm not sure the commission thought about how to get out of this trap."

But it's thinking about it now. On April 23, the PUC has been mandated to present its commission members with something that could be classified as a plan. PUC Commissioner Francesca Vietor all but demanded this: "I would like to go on record, once again, that we have not received a plan to conduct local build-out," she griped at a March meeting. Such a plan, she continued, "must be assembled in short order. Include everything. Financing. Jobs. Greenhouse gas emissions. Everything."

Staffers are hurriedly drawing the roadmap for a journey that is already under way. One plan with everything, coming right up.


Absent a "plan," build-out is merely a "goal." But it's a goal that resonates — and looks good on paper. In the days prior to the board's September vote, program advocates made certain to pitch wavering supes on CleanPowerSF as a green jobs program. In February, PUC pollsters discovered city residents' professed commitment to the program swelled when informed "the goal of CleanPowerSF is to construct new renewable energy facilities, mainly solar and wind, in and around San Francisco." This, says Campos, underscores the importance of build-out. "It's a better program. But it's also a lot more marketable. It's easier to sell."

But it's not easy to buy. The elaborate build-out scenarios advocated by the program's most zealous supporters would require hundreds of millions of dollars — even well over $1 billion — in bond financing. Minus these sky-high visions of what build-out should entail, PUC leadership has, for months, pitched a roof-high version: one that enables the use of the key term, "build-out," while only tying up around one-tenth of one per cent the money envisioned by advocates.

"Our goal is to have local build-out," Barbara Hale, the head of the PUC's power enterprise, told commissioners during a February meeting. "We will have local build-out immediately through the GoSolar program."

GoSolar is a 5-year-old program that has, thus far, provided financial incentives for around 2,100 San Franciscans to install solar panels on their roofs. In that time, it's added about five megawatts of solar power to the city's total. It's a well-regarded enough program — but light years from the job-creating, paradigm-shifting build-out desired by CleanPowerSF advocates, labor leaders, and elected officials. (When informed of Hale's statement, Campos buried his head in his hands). And, thanks to the paradoxical terms lashing it to CleanPowerSF, it's uncertain if more than an infinitesimal number of customers will actually be eligible for "local build-out immediately through the GoSolar program."

A September e-mail penned by former CleanPowerSF director Michael Campbell — on the cusp of the critical board vote to greenlight the Shell contract — notes, "We are 'sweetening the pot,'" largely by funneling $2 million into the CleanPowerSF contract for GoSolar and another $2 million for energy efficiency programs. (The PUC made it clear that, if the supes voted down the Shell contract, this additional money would not be available.) And, by appropriating GoSolar, the PUC was able to claim CleanPowerSF will create local jobs.

But not many. A subsequent PUC e-mail estimates the program would lead to "around 8 jobs (maybe slightly more)." A local call center for CleanPowerSF customers could provide "like 4 jobs."

The supes voted for the sweetened pot. But the funds they approved are earmarked for low-income users of CleanPowerSF — even though, in the forthcoming initial rollout of the CleanPowerSF program, the PUC will specifically avoid enrolling low-income users. (This mitigates the specter of poor, elderly, monolingual residents unwittingly seeing their bills go through the roof.)

So, the only tangible version of CleanPowerSF "build-out" the PUC has thus far codified, GoSolar, is intended for people who won't be included in CleanPowerSF. Low-income customers would be required to manually opt into CleanPowerSF, which figures to be notably more expensive than their discounted PG&E rates.

PUC spokesman Charles Sheehan acknowledged that the Board of Supervisors "guided" the PUC to prioritize the millions in GoSolar and efficiency programming for low-income CleanPowerSF customers — but the supes also pushed that such customers be excluded from the initial phase.

A program likened to organic groceries required some organic sausage-making.


Outfitted, incongruously, in a business suit and a knit ski cap, Paul Fenn is approached by a panhandler on Market and New Montgomery. He politely declines to offer a handout. "I know I look rich," he says, "but I'm not." Fenn's chosen profession has been eclectic, if not lucrative. He's the pied piper of Community Choice Aggregation.

Fenn conceived of this novel method of achieving municipal power while still a student. Rather than emulating Hugo Chavez by seizing privately owned distribution systems, cities can directly purchase power in bulk — "aggregating" their customers — and distribute energy across existing power lines. This is the mechanism behind CleanPowerSF.

Currently, more than 1,000 cities receive power under a CCA service; Marin launched one in 2010. CleanPowerSF, however, is the first CCA to propose initiating with higher rates — let alone much higher rates — than the existing utility.

But buying high-priced power from Shell has been described as a short-term necessary evil, facilitating energy independence and clean power from future local facilities. So, in 2011, Fenn's company, Local Power, Inc., signed a $390,000 PUC contract to design this "in-city build-out." This gargantuan undertaking goes well beyond repurposing small, existing local programs: It lays out an audacious vision of changing San Francisco into a green oasis — and by 2017, to boot. Fenn's plan leans heavily on reducing consumption via increased efficiencies and creating hundreds of "behind-the-meter" small- to midsized solar installations. PG&E makes the lion's share of its money on power distribution; behind-the-meter setups wouldn't run on PG&E's lines, eliminating those costs. All told, Fenn claims his model would deliver several hundred megawatts of power to the city while saving consumers money over PG&E rates, and putting thousands of locals to work. The funds for transforming the city into a green paradise — up to $1.4 billion — would be provided via bonds authorized by voters in Proposition H of 2001. Fenn wrote that proposition. He also wrote the original Community Choice Aggregation law in Massachusetts in 1997; drafted San Francisco's CCA resolution in 1998; penned the California law authorizing the creation of CCAs in '02; wrote the city's CCA ordinance in '04; and created the CleanPowerSF implementation plan in '07.

PUC officials have, for years, critiqued elements of Fenn's plan — its reliance upon Hetch Hetchy hydroelectric power they say isn't readily available; the dodgy proposition of expediently completing hundreds of installations in twee San Francisco; or its focus on large, commercial rooftops owned by companies with longstanding business (and political) relationships with PG&E. But the major impediments to Fenn's plan aren't the myriad details — which seem rational and achievable on a case-by-case basis — but its vast scope, aggressive timeline, and huge price tag.

On March 5, the shoe dropped. Fenn and the cadre of environmentalists who have zealously pushed for local build-out received a terse e-mail from Cheryl Taylor, the PUC's interim director of the CleanPowerSF program. It stated that PUC commissioners had, at their prior meeting, "provided a clear message to staff" that they were "intent on continuing to develop the scaled-down, risk-mitigated CleanPowerSF program approved by the Board of Supervisors" — in other words, opening the doors of a business and then determining its business plan. There was no appetite for "the $1 billion financial commitment and numerous facilities" envisioned in Fenn's model. As such, his contract expired this month and was not renewed.

The commissioners' "clear message" came as a surprise to several commissioners contacted by SF Weekly. "There was no clear direction from the commissioners saying 'terminate this contract,'" says Vietor. "We didn't give that message. ... This was a staff decision. Not a commissioner decision."

What is clear, however, is the strained relationship between the PUC and Fenn had grown toxic. Attendees at the twice-monthly meetings of PUC staffers, Fenn's group, and community CleanPowerSF advocates described angry, unproductive sessions largely consisting of quarrels about contractual obligations. Clearest of all is that Fenn's vision of build-out is — and long has been — dead on arrival with the PUC.

The PUC's lack of a clear, long-term plan for CleanPowerSF hasn't gone unnoticed within City Hall. "We're all frustrated. We feel like we're not getting answers," says one city official. "But they're not in a place where they can give any, because the program isn't active."


On the other hand, PUC presents its lack of a plan as the plan. "We are being careful to not have a plan prior to [California Environmental Quality Act] review," says Hale. "We don't want to give naysayers an argument that we should have done a programmatic [Environmental Impact Report] on this."

Hale declines to discuss just who those "naysayers" might be. So let's take a wild guess. On March 18, the PUC received its first of multiple letters from the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers' legal team, demanding CleanPowerSF be subjected to a sweeping Environmental Impact Report, plan or no plan. The IBEW had already plastered swaths of San Francisco — neighborhoods in which CleanPowerSF polled well — with glossy mailers. These depicted an immolated electrical socket and described the city's clean energy venture as a "Shell Shock" that would ship jobs (IBEW jobs) out of state and align San Francisco with an environmental villain. District 5 residents received similar material during last year's supervisorial campaign — partly underwritten by Ron Conway, the mayor's preferred financier.

The IBEW's contention that switching to 100-per cent renewable power could actually harm the environment is, at first, the sort of thing that could make you laugh. But the broad swath of power sources the state considers "renewable" and the beastly complexities of transmitting energy are the sorts of thing that could make you cry.

Per California standards, greenhouse-gas-free power generated from large hydroelectric facilities like Hetch Hetchy — which has, for decades, enabled San Francisco to power city-owned facilities cleanly and inexpensively — do not count as "renewable." Biomass — the burning of trees or other organic materials — and landfill gas do, however. "Those are hugely problematic. They should never be considered renewable energy," says Ananda Tan, the North American program coordinator at the Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives. San Francisco, Tan continues, excels at keeping the recyclable and compostable materials that produce gas out of landfills, "so it's contradictory for a model city in terms of waste management practices to then purchase landfill gas from some other city."

CleanPowerSF's website and promotional materials feature happy windmills under a radiant yellow sun; they do not depict burning trees or flaring landfills. Hale says the PUC has "no commitment yet" on the sources of the power Shell will provide. But the list of Shell's 2011 power sources for Marin Clean Energy indicate just under 20 per cent of its renewable supply hailed from wind or solar power. Twice as much came from the burning of organic matter.

Power from wind and solar facilities, meanwhile, must be "firmed and shaped" to meet demand: Since it's not always windy or sunny, output is inconsistent. So regular old "system power" from the grid is added to firm and shape the supply.

When Shell and others "green up" your energy with "Renewable Energy Credits," meanwhile, system power is all you're getting. Renewable Energy Credits are the energy world's equivalent to a papal indulgence. Essentially, purchasing one allows an energy provider to claim credit for power generated by an existing renewable facility — power that would have been generated regardless and is distributed to someone else — while providing its customers with system power. Locals paying a premium for "100-per cent renewable" energy may actually be receiving whatever's in the grid — while propping up existing wind-farms in Idaho or landfills in Washington. Unions say they hate this because it sends money and jobs out of state. Environmentalists hate it because it doesn't add to the development of new renewable power. "It's really kind of a shuck," says Weinrub.

So whether the 100-per cent renewable power CleanPowerSF customers will receive from Shell is any cleaner than the status quo is a loaded question. "The answer is, in the short-term, it's not," contends Matthew Freedman, staff attorney for The Utility Reform Network, a consumer advocacy group. "Basically, Shell is providing system power."

The CleanPowerSF contract with Shell specifically notes, "No new facilities are required to be constructed in order for Shell Energy to meet its supply obligation under this Agreement." Without new facilities coming on-line — or a clear path to this end — San Francisco runs the risk of "reshuffling the same deck," Freedman continues. The city is elbowing its way past others to obtain renewable energy, or credits that transubstantiate regular power into green. But it has not yet addressed the ultimate green goal: more truly renewable energy entering the market.

"It's only cleaner if new facilities get built as a result," says Freedman of San Francisco's endeavor. "It's pretty much that simple."


The absence of local build-out means the absence of local jobs. That explains orange-shirted laborers packing a public meeting and the IBEW packing San Francisco mailboxes and siccing its lawyers on the city.

The electrical workers' union claims that a Shell contract exporting money and jobs across state lines is its prime concern. Fair enough. But IBEW workers are employed by 28 utility companies around the state. Around 50 per cent work for 27 of those outfits — and the other 50 per cent work for PG&E.

But the gravest threat to CleanPowerSF's all-important initial stage may not come from PG&E's house union, but from PG&E itself. Last year, as San Francisco ramped up its efforts to launch CleanPowerSF, PG&E released plans for a "Green Tariff" of its own. The plan would have been composed, entirely, of Renewable Energy Credits — a situation widely decried as "greenwashing" and leading to lengthy, ongoing settlement negotiations before the California Public Utilities Commission.

Sources close to the deal, however, predict its pending terms will be made public soon. And, they add, it's changed in a way that may give many San Franciscans what they want — while potentially pulling the rug out from under CleanPowerSF.

Freedman declined to be interviewed regarding that pending settlement. Others, however, claim that the deal, as it stands, closely adheres to the lengthy proposal The Utility Reform Network submitted last year. That document called for PG&E to supply energy to Green Tariff subscribers from its contracted renewable installations — with those customers' premiums funding the building of local facilities in proximity to clusters of subscribers. In other words, the PUC's "goal" of local build-out would be the basis of the tentative PG&E proposal — which also figures to be less costly than CleanPowerSF.

Supervisor John Avalos downplays the potential of PG&E's future program plucking customers away from CleanPowerSF: "They're not quite as earnest about clean power as we are in San Francisco." The importance of being earnest remains to be seen. What may be more important, however, is that those who'd prefer the PG&E program will have to proactively opt in, while those enrolled in CleanPowerSF must proactively opt out. Someone enrolled into CleanPowerSF who'd prefer the PG&E green option would have to do both.

This only complicates an issue about which many people have strong feelings — but a weak grasp.


San Franciscans pride themselves on both environmentalism and political literacy. But February PUC polling revealed 79 per cent of city residents haven't "seen, heard, or read anything about a program called CleanPowerSF." Only seven per cent have "heard a lot" about it. Regardless, the city is preparing to enroll hundreds of thousands of them into a program with high aspirations — and a high price tag.

The costs for CleanPowerSF customers haven't been finalized, but figures the PUC has bandied about keep creeping skyward. When city economist Ted Egan crunched the numbers last summer, a premium of only 77 per cent was anticipated; now, the program is provisionally expected to cost users 93 per cent more than PG&E's electricity generation rates. Both numbers are a far cry from hopes as recently as 2010 that CleanPowerSF would "meet or beat" PG&E's prices.

PUC staff is confident a critical mass of "younger, more affluent, and more highly educated residents" exists to amass the roughly 90,000 residential customers required to get the program's initial stage off the ground; in some precincts, polling indicates 70 per cent or more of residents may opt to stay with CleanPowerSF. Citywide, however, the opt-out rate is hovering at around 50 per cent. And once a customer opts out, PUC documents estimate a 90 to 95 per cent chance he or she will not opt back in.

Retaining as many customers as possible, then, is CleanPowerSF's paramount goal as it kick-starts the program: "If you go out of the gate trying to run and you don't have enough demand for power teed up to purchase, that would be the worst-case scenario I can imagine," says Todd Rydstrom, the PUC's chief financial officer. So, despite much optimism over the latest polling numbers, it's difficult to ignore that roughly half of those queried plan to drop out — even before the near-certain campaign against the program.

But assume everything goes well. Assume everything goes better than well. Assume the PUC codifies the road to local build-out, builds it, and the city's greenhouse gas emissions plummet. Will it make any difference?

The answer to that question is uncertain. California this year adopted a cap-and trade plan, establishing an ostensible ceiling for statewide emissions. The system focuses on the sources of emissions — like power plants — and not the consumers. As such, environmentally conscious individuals (or cities) may not factor into the state's ultimate emission total. San Francisco could reduce its emissions, while less environmentally motivated parts of the state do nothing or emit more, and the cap would remain constant.

Cap-and-trade won't necessarily thwart CleanPowerSF, however. Should the predetermined minimum auction price for emissions allowances be reached, the state will suspend the cap. Instead, polluters will simply pay a carbon tax. In this event, reductions in greenhouse gas emissions by San Francisco — or anybody else — wouldn't be automatically offset. There'd be fewer emissions in the state, period. So, that's good (though this scenario is far likelier if the state's economy falters).

A recent paper by U.C. Berkeley's Energy Institute at Haas predicts the suspension of the cap is not a far-fetched possibility — but also hardly a foregone conclusion. So, under a cap-and-trade system, if San Francisco reduces its emissions, some other municipality may well just emit more: "You have the risk of moving the chairs around," notes U.C. Davis economist Jim Bushnell, a co-author of that paper. In the nightmare scenario for San Francisco, the city would, at great expense to its ratepayers, reduce its emissions — only to drive the price of allowances downward, allowing some polluter to buy them up on the cheap and then be able to pollute more. For all our costly efforts, the state's overall emissions would be unchanged.

This is a city that values individual action, and CleanPowerSF is an "aggregated" version of that. But the state has adopted an emissions policy that devalues individual action.


On March 25, David De La Torre, the orange-clad laborers' leader, stepped up to the microphone and asked PUC staff, commissioners, and members of the board three questions: "Will this program create jobs for our members? How many jobs will this program create? And where will these jobs be located?"

Those are some good questions. Answers were not provided.

The ostensible purpose of the meeting was for commissioners to vote on CleanPowerSF's "not-to-exceed rate" — that is, the ceiling for how much customers may be charged. At 15.2 cents per kilowatt hour, the tentative proposal dwarfs PG&E's projected rate of 7.9 cents. But that vote was put off until, at earliest, the 23rd of this month. Rather than setting rates, the meeting served instead as something of a catharsis for commissioners, supes, and members of the public venting about the need for a "robust build-out" and demanding PUC staff conjure up a plan for one.

What the city's decision-makers do with such a document remains to be seen. At some point, they'll be forced to tackle the trap pointed out by Howard Ash — lowering rates enough to retain customers, but not so much that PUC can't bankroll a build-out. Hale told commissioners at the March meeting that, if the city stretches the payback of CleanPowerSF's $13.5 million collateral over many years while stocking the program with cheap Renewable Energy Credits — rather than costlier (and less bogus) forms of renewable energy — a revenue stream of up to $9.4 million a year is projected. This money could be used to lower customers' rates, or leveraged into some $90 million for build-out.

Members of the board, naturally, have since stated they'd like to do both. Perhaps this is the fitting destiny for a program once blithely pitched as being able to beat PG&E's prices while offering a superior product.

But if the PUC banked $90 million (or, as CFO Rydstrom hopes, $300 million by borrowing against the entire CleanPowerSF customer stream), what would it build? Staffers have been coy about that. But notes for an undelivered January presentation list seven large solar installations with a capacity of 86 megawatts. (Fittingly for a green endeavor, these projects were recycled from earlier PUC plans.)

This represents an approach to CleanPowerSF 180 degrees from that of Fenn and local build-out partisans. Rather than rapidly construct heaps of smallish behind-the-meter setups, this plan would, gradually, lead to sprawling installations likely transmitting power over PG&E lines.

Erecting all seven would, even at peak capacity, provide just under 14 per cent of the city's average residential load. The PUC's estimated price tag is north of half a billion dollars, and many years of public meetings and permitting headaches would ensue, since the PUC doesn't own the land every installation is proposed to be built on. One facility would be placed atop a former radioactive repository in Hunters Point; meanwhile, the PUC's notion of building on a rural swath of the East Bay came as an utter shock to Alameda County's planning department.

A program envisioned as providing clean energy and quality green-collar jobs will do neither without the ethereal "robust build-out." CleanPowerSF has been touted as a route to energy independence from PG&E — but should the PUC erect large, remote facilities, it figures that San Francisco would still be relying on PG&E to channel that power back to the city (and not for free). A program once slated as challenging PG&E's rates gave way to the organic "premium product." And should the PUC borrow against the program's revenue stream to fund a build-out, the costs of paying down hundreds of millions worth of installations — while saving for more — could well keep CleanPowerSF a premium product for years to come, catering to "younger, more affluent, and more highly educated residents" with bike racks on the Prius and Carl Kasell's voice on their answering machines.


On a chilly recent Tuesday, Paul Fenn stood to address the city's Environment Commission and highlight his business plan for local build-out. Both Fenn and the commissioners knew the PUC had expressly rejected the material about to be discussed and, in a few day's time, Fenn's contract would expire. The affair had the somewhat listless feel of a late-season ballgame between teams far from the pennant race.

Fenn, however, gamely plowed through the Power Points of his life's work: 12,000 jobs to be created during the build-out years; a minimum of 12,000 units retrofitted for energy efficiencies; and $650 million in savings for customers over projected PG&E rates in a 10-year period.

A graphic depicting the city's peak day-by-day energy usage flashed onto the screen. It resembled a three-dimensional, multi-colored mountain range and jarred the commissioners in ways that talk of thousands of jobs, hundreds of millions in savings, and billions in bonding did not.

"I have seen a lot of graphs in my life," interrupted Commissioner Angelo King. "But I gotta be honest with you. I can't read that one." Commissioner Josh Arce smiled: "It's what I imagine time-travel to look like."

A few chuckles reverberated around the mostly empty room. Fenn finished his presentation and, 16 years after joining the city's fight for public power, left the building.

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11 comments
paul8kangas
paul8kangas

Clean Power SF lacks: local source of solar power from SF homes,

It lacks any way to pay homeowners $0.54 kwh for feeding solar onto the grid.  It will not created a million solar jobs.   The FiT in Germany created 500,000 solar jobs in Germany.  Not in France.  CPSF lacks 100% clean solar energy.  It gives $$ millions to Shell Oil.  Giving money to the oily 1%.  What a joke.    It lack support from most  Green activists.   It is designed to fail.  Whomever created this green scam belongs in prison with Barry Maddoff.  

brookse32
brookse32 topcommenter

Hi Paul and all. Neither the SF Green Party, nor any other clean energy advocate supports CleanPowerSF in its current form, and we are demanding that hundreds of megawatts of local renewables and efficiency (and the thousands of local union jobs that installing these will generate) must be the foundation of the program before it goes forward.

It is also important for you to understand that any clean energy program which (as you are suggesting) would only be based on solar feed-in-tariffs, would not be strong enough, nor would it build clean energy fast enough, to effectively counter the climate crisis.

CleanPowerSF, as long as it is built the way it was originally designed, will install a wide spectrum of interactive renewable energy and conservation measures including solar, wind, geothermal, cogeneration (using waste heat from generators and boilers to generate electricity), thousands of efficiency projects all over the city, electricity storage, and finally, demand response techniques to lower electrical appliance and machine drain on the system at peak demand.

It is really important to use all of these strategies together, so that when the sun isn't shining or the wind isn't blowing there will still be reliable clean electricity flowing.

In fact solar all by itself is what the SFPUC is proposing and this would be a recipe for failure, because of its very high up front cost and its not-always-on nature.

One last important note. If the current very poor SFPUC plan goes forward with no large local build-out of renewables and efficiency, the whole program will indeed be controlled by Shell corporation which will act only as an Enron style -purchaser- of 'clean' energy on the market, from distant sources - creating no real new renewables and no local jobs.

And it is precisely because we do -not- want Shell to run or play any big role in our local clean energy program that we are working diligently to make sure that the program is based instead on hundreds of megawatts of local clean energy installation, and not on a weak stand alone contract with Shell Energy North America.

Eric Brooks, Sustainability Chair, SF Green Party

paul8kangas
paul8kangas

Joe Eskenazi, thank you for that great article  on SF fake green energy.

Four years ago I wrote a leaflet against CCA & Clean Power SF , saying  “It is designed to fail.”   I spoke before the Board of Supervisors against it.    

It is obviously just a shell game designed to “sound” green, but to not shift California towards 100% solar.   

CCA  won’t create the millions of solar jobs we need.    

What I proposed instead, 4 years ago, was a solar feed in tariff, (FiT) that would require PG&E to buy solar from anyone who feeds it onto the grid, at $0.54 kwh.   

This would create a million solar jobs.

The FiT  could earn home owners $1,000. a month income, depending on the number of solar panels they put up.   

This will give homes free solar energy for 50 year.  

Plus, when the grid goes down,  during a quake, those homes with 20+ solar panels will still have power.     

Was the Green Party involved in developing the CleanPowerSF scam? 

brookse32
brookse32 topcommenter

Hi Paul and all. Neither the SF Green Party, nor any other clean energy advocate supports CleanPowerSF in its current form, and we are demanding that hundreds of megawatts of local renewables and efficiency (and the thousands of local union jobs that installing these will generate) must be the foundation of the program before it goes forward.

It is also important for you to understand that any clean energy program which (as you are suggesting) would only be based on solar feed-in-tariffs, would not be strong enough, nor would it build clean energy fast enough, to effectively counter the climate crisis.

CleanPowerSF, as long as it is built the way it was originally designed, will install a wide spectrum of interactive renewable energy and conservation measures including solar, wind, geothermal, cogeneration (using waste heat from generators and boilers to generate electricity), thousands of efficiency projects all over the city, electricity storage, and finally, demand response techniques to lower electrical appliance and machine drain on the system at peak demand.

It is really important to use all of these strategies together, so that when the sun isn't shining or the wind isn't blowing there will still be reliable clean electricity flowing.

In fact solar all by itself is what the SFPUC is proposing and this would be a recipe for failure, because of its very high up front cost and its not-always-on nature.

One last important note. If the current very poor SFPUC plan goes forward with no large local build-out of renewables and efficiency, the whole program will indeed be controlled by Shell corporation which will act only as an Enron style -purchaser- of 'clean' energy on the market, from distant sources - creating no real new renewables and no local jobs.

And it is precisely because we do -not- want Shell to run or play any big role in our local clean energy program that we are working diligently to make sure that the program is based instead on hundreds of megawatts of local clean energy installation, and not on a weak stand alone contract with Shell Energy North America.

Eric Brooks, Sustainability Chair, SF Green Party

jbsf481
jbsf481 like.author.displayName 1 Like

"Shell Oil Company is a 50/50 partner with the Saudi Arabian government-owned oil company Saudi Aramco in Motiva Enterprises, a refining and marketing joint venture which owns and operates three oil refineries on the Gulf Coast of the United States."  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shell_Oil_Company  So the rates that are double PG&E's will make profits for the Saudi monarchy and a BIG OIL company. With all the civil rights violations there I can imagine some in SF might find this objectionable

paul8kangas
paul8kangas

@jbsf481  Great post.   Even a blind person can see CleanPowerSF is a scam.

SFPUC_Rules
SFPUC_Rules like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 2 Like

SFPUC's Juliet Ellis gets busted for contracting corruption, now this story shows the agency's energy policy incompetence.  The SFPUC is chock full of all kinds of turds!

brookse32
brookse32 topcommenter like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 2 Like

The SF Department Of Environment Is Ready And Able To Build Out The Large Scale Clean Energy In San Francisco, That The SFPUC Is Refusing To Pursue

Really good article until the last page, when you leave off the most important part of the story Joe.

Paul Fenn presented an plan to the Environment Commission in which he detailed that instead of the reluctant and inexperienced SFPUC, that the Department of Environment itself has a far better trained and experienced staff to pursue the work of overseeing the large scale local clean energy build-out promoted by community advocates, and should take on that very role in the next year. (This is because the Department of Environment already oversees scores of megawatts of local energy efficiency installations in San Francisco and could easily expand that role.)

Fenn concluded his report by outlining the ambitious task that he was proposing for Environment staff, of guiding the hiring of hundreds of local workers to install hundreds of megawatts of renewable energy and efficiency facilities in the city over the next ten years.

At the end of Fenn's presentation, commissioner Heather Stephenson then turned to Department of Environment Deputy Director David Assmann and asked him 1) did he think the Department could take on that task successfully, and 2) did the Department have the desire to take on such build-out work?

And the Deputy Director emphatically answered "Yes" to both questions.

So there is clearly now a city department with the will, the drive, and the expertise, to build a legitimate large scale local clean energy program in San Francisco.

All that remains is for the Board of Supervisors to bypass the SFPUC staff which has its head stuck in 20th century energy planning, commission Fenn and his team to complete the build-out plan for the Department of Environment to implement, and then pass the bond funding needed to build it.

Let's get to work!

Eric Brooks, Sustainability Chair, SF Green Party

paul8kangas
paul8kangas

@brookse32  What is needed is a solar feed in tariff (FiT)  requiring PG&E to pay $0.54 kwh to anyone who feeds solar onto the grid.  Nothing less will work.  CleanPowerSF is just a shell game.  

The FiT is the only policy that has shut down nukes in the world.   Germany & 69 nations have a FiT.  California is being held hostage by a lack of education.  Europe is 30 years ahead of the US.   Get FiT.  

brookse32
brookse32 topcommenter

Hi Paul.

It is important for you to understand that any clean energy program which (as you are suggesting) would only be based on solar feed-in-tariffs, would not be strong enough, nor would it build clean energy fast enough, to effectively counter the climate crisis.

CleanPowerSF, as long as it is built the way it was originally designed, will install a wide spectrum of interactive renewable energy and conservation measures including solar, wind, geothermal, cogeneration (using waste heat from generators and boilers to generate electricity), thousands of efficiency projects all over the city, electricity storage, and finally, demand response techniques to lower electrical appliance and machine drain on the system at peak demand.

It is really important to use all of these strategies together, so that when the sun isn't shining or the wind isn't blowing there will still be reliable clean electricity flowing.

In fact solar all by itself is what the SFPUC is proposing and this would be a recipe for failure, because of its very high up front cost and its not-always-on nature.

Eric Brooks, Sustainability Chair, SF Green Party

meatsack
meatsack like.author.displayName 1 Like

@brookse32  

Oh yes, the dept of environment.

I remember playing phone tag with those geniuses  four or so years ago.  First I got a letter bemoaning the lack of  a green Campos can at work, so I e-mail the person on the letter, later in the day she called while I was out.  I-mailed her back asking what she wanted, she called again, I e-mailed back...  At last she called and blathered about the lack of a green can.  

I told her that there wasn't much room and that it was an old building and we had a problem with rodents.  She blathered her bonged out hippie nonsense at me for awhile and said she would come by and look things over during the week.  A few weeks go by so I e-mail her, then she calls me...  She never came by and seems to not understand how E-mail works, or thinks maybe as a city employee everyone has time for her shit.

 

 
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