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Friday, November 6, 2009

City Softens Requirements on Clean Energy Master Plan

Posted By on Fri, Nov 6, 2009 at 11:59 AM

City officials have backed off from several of the more ambitious aspects of a planned overhaul of the local power grid that is intended to make San Francisco's energy supply greener and less dependent on Pacific Gas & Electric Co.

click to enlarge The promised land
  • The promised land
The city's Public Utilities Commission and Local Agency Formation Commission -- commonly known as LAFCo, the commission helps formulate energy policy -- yesterday issued a Request for Proposals from potential bidders who would run the program. Called CleanPowerSF, the initiative is a "community choice aggregation" plan that would allow the city to pool all its power customers together and offer them to a private supplier.

CleanPowerSF's purpose is to break up PG&E's monopoly on the city's power supply, ushering in more renewable and local sources of energy. (As such, it has the support of many "public power" advocates, who have supported past unsuccessful efforts to gain voter approval for a city takeover of PG&E's local power grid.) But the softened bid requirements -- in particular the loosening of the city's commitment to CleanPowerSF providing rates for customers at or below those of PG&E -- raise questions about where the effort is headed. In theory, the less stringent bid request could lead to a program that is less green, and more expensive for the city's ratepayers, than what CleanPowerSF proponents have promised.

Mike Campbell, the PUC staffer in charge of CleanPowerSF, said the program's ambitious goals had been preserved in the bid request, but were not made mandatory in order to encourage "creative responses" from bidders and "make sure we get as many potential respondents as possible." At a September public hearing on the program, Campbell opined that the city might not be able to find a single bidder to meet all its prior requirements.

"The RFP still emphasizes the city's goals, which haven't changed," Campbell told SF Weekly. However, the new, looser guidelines mean the city "wouldn't throw out a response if they said, 'We'll get you to 50 percent renewable.'" (Plans for CleanPowerSF had previously called for at least 51 percent renewable energy.)

Pro-CCA activist Eric Brooks said he was content with the final bid request document, partly because the SFPUC had established a scoring system for bids that favors providers who meet or exceed the targets of the program. "Advocates are pretty confident that the bid responses we're going to get are going to be good, strong responses," he said.

Photo   |   San Francisco Public Utilities Commission

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Peter Jamison

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