PG&E, Ed Lee, and the SFPUC v. Clean Energy

KPFA Evening News, 05.11.2014

Stanford University engineering professor Mark Jacobson addressed the opening session of the first Dirty Energy/Clean Solutions Climate Conference 2014 at San Francisco’s Unitarian Universalist Church on Friday, May 8. Jacobson says that it’s possible  to convert the entire United States to renewable energy by the year 2050 and makes his points with an interactive map; clicks on each state display the possible distribution of wind and solar, the number of jobs that would be created, and the carbon emissions that would be eliminated. Ironically, Jacobson addressed this San Francisco audience just nine days after San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee proposed to cut the entire $19 million dollars that the San Francisco Board of Supervisors set aside to create a renewable power option for the city’s residents. 

Pacific Gas'n Electric was the lead sponsor of the 2014 Conference of Mayors in Sacramento in April. Next year the Conference of Mayors will be held in San Francisco. Third mayor from left, San Francisco's Ed Lee.

Transcript: 
KPFA Evening News Anchor Anthony Fest: This weekend was the conference on Dirty Energy and Clean Solutions. That conference opening in San Francisco at the Unitarian Universalist Church on Friday. ​Ironically, the conference in San Francisco came at the same time that San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee proposed to cut the entire $19 million dollar budget that the San Francisco Board of Supervisors had set aside to create a renewable power option for city residents looking for an alternative to PG&E power. KPFA’s Ann Garrison is in the studio with this live report on the distance between renewable power technologies and the political will to implement them. 
 
KPFA/ANN: San Francisco Supervisor John Avalos said he feels reasonably confident that the Board’s Budget Committee will restore the CleanPowerSF funds before the full Board votes on the budget, but he also says he wonders whether Mayor Ed Lee would have proposed the clean power funding cut if he didn’t believe that he could strike enough political deals to get his way with the Board. 
 
John Avalos: Supervisor Scott Wiener really wants streetlights. And I wonder if the mayor has talked with Supervisor Wiener to get his support to swipe the funds by offering his solar streetlights. And I’ve heard that another Supervisor, I’m not sure who, is really pushing the Go Solar program and may be subject to changing his support for CleanPowerSF for GoSolar.
 
And then just randomly, there’s all kinds of things in the budget or projects that the mayor can support or take away, based on Supervisors’ votes. 
 
KPFA; Even if the funds were restored, the Mayor and the Public Utilities Commissioners, could once again stall and refuse to implement the clean power program, as they have for the past two years, ever since the Board passed it with an 8 to 3 supermajority which meant that Mayor Lee could not veto it. The Public Utilities Commissioners prior obstruction finally stirred Supervisor Avalos to propose a Board ordinance to study the feasibilty of joining Marin Clean Energy, as the City of Richmond did two years ago.  
 
John Avalos: We’re trying every means possible to offer clean power to San Francisco residents, even going to Marin possibly, if we have to do that.
 
KPFA: San Francisco Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi, a former Supervisor and longtime renewable power advocate, said that Marin Clean Energy is a non-profit electricity buying community, that has been extraordinarily successful, far more successful than even its adherents had imagined, and that it’s an example of how efficient regional renewable power can be.  
 
Ross Mirkarimi: Since San Francisco has now been dwarfed in clean energy by its own politics, I think good measures stand to investigating what a regional CCA would look like, by hooking up with Marin.  So if you have this network of municipalities, I think it shows the creativity amid the political roadblocks. The good news about this kind of structure is that it’s considered a not for profit structure. That’s one of the things that appealed to me the most, that even if you have a company like Shell or others, the overhead still must be addressed, but the dividends that are created must by law be reinvested back into the infrastructure of the clean energy system, or into the rate decrease.  And so, you can imagine that there will be that start-up cost. That’s natural for any new business, as well as a municipal utility. But the payoff has already come much sooner for Marin, where they’re registering a profit that’s being reinvested back in their system. They never anticipated that that payoff was going to come so soon. So for us not to study the feasibility and the mechanisms that have now induced a much more positive than expected story, literally a bridge away, is absolutely absurd.
 
KPFA/Ann: PG&E produces only 19% of its power from renewable sources, despite a state mandate that required them to be producing at least 20% with renewables by 2010.  
 
In Berkeley, for Pacifica, KPFA Radio, I’m Ann Garrison.
 
 

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