Little-Noticed Prop. A Could Threaten PG&E Monopoly

Proposition A paves the way for San Francisco to build its own clean power infrastructure and offer an alternative to PG&E.

Proposition A is quite the snoozer, especially in comparison to high-stakes measures like a ruling on a flavored tobacco ban, or a revolutionary right-to-counsel for renters served eviction notices.

But we promise that revenue bonds for clean power projects are actually a big deal in reclaiming our power grid, especially when you consider the power that PG&E has over utility-paying residents. We know, we know, it sounds boring, but stay with us.

Supervisor Aaron Peskin led this Prop. to the ballot to give the Public Utilities Commission (PUC), paired with a two-thirds vote by the Board of Supervisors, the ability to issue revenue bonds that would fund clean power facilities. PUC can already do this with water and sewer services, but without this voter-fueled change, running renewable energy services is left largely up to PG&E, which owns the infrastructure that gets power to its customers.

Supporters of Prop. A argue that allowing the PUC to use public bonds to put up money for renewable energy like solar power will bring low-cost, low-emission energy to San Francisco residents otherwise subject to PG&E’s corporate energy monopoly.

But the Libertarian Party of San Francisco, which issued the official rebuttal in the San Francisco Department of Elections Voter Guide, questions whether a government-owned entity would serve residents better than a corporation, asserting that it will add more debt to the city.
Nevertheless, the measure would not have a direct impact on government spending, according to City Controller Ben Rosenfield.

All 11 supervisors voted to place Prop. A on the ballot so they would likely approve the bonds, but the PUC also needs approval from the mayor to proceed. If the PUC is being called out for water rates as a reason to vote against this, then it’s only fair to mention the thousands of homes destroyed and hundreds of lives upended by PG&E’s 2010 San Bruno pipeline explosion and Cal Fire’s recent ruling that the utility’s poor maintenance of power lines caused three of the North Bay fires last fall.

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