City Softens Requirements on Clean Energy Master Plan

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.

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.

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