power_beauty.jpgCleanPowerSF advocates rallied today in front of City Hall to clarify what they say is misinformation that PG&E has been distributing to San Francisco residents about the city’s alternative power plan, CleanPowerSF, in the form of mailers to city residents.

CleanPowerSF is the city’s adopted energy plan that takes advantage of a 2002 state law that allows local governments to enter into “Community Choice Aggregation” agreements and secure alternative energy supply contracts.

The new energy plan will mean that San Francisco residents’ default energy provider will change from PG&E to CleanPowerSF. Residents will have four options to opt-out of the CleanPowerSF program, according to Tyrone Jue, spokesman for the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission.

Marin County recently adopted a similar energy policy, according to the Marin Energy Authority, and other municipalities around that Bay Area, like Sonoma County, are looking to do the same.

Advocates argue that CleanPowerSF offers residents a long-awaited alternative to PG&E. The two main government organizations that organized today’s rally are the SFPUC and the Local Agency Formation Commission, which is a task force controlled by the Board of Supervisors that oversees the city’s energy policy.

At the rally, Supervisors John Avalos and Eric Mar, who are both members of LAFCo, described recently receiving a full-color mailer from PG&E that they said is targeted to minority communities in San Francisco and suggests CleanPowerSF will force residents into a contract that will increase their power rates by 24 percent and possibly also increase their taxes.

“That’s a bunch of bulls-t, basically,” Mar said at the rally.

But Eric Jaye, spokesman for the Coalition for Common Sense, the PG&E shareholder-funded group that created and distributed the mailer, said that the information came directly from a 2007 report issued by the then-San Francisco city controller Ed Harrington.
“One of the reasons they seem to be swearing is that we’re quoting their own report,” Jaye said. “This is a report they issued and they’re now trying to distance themselves from that report.”

Harrington, who currently acts as the general manager of the SFPUC, spoke at today’s rally and said that the report only indicates potential rate increases from renewable rates available in 2007. As for whether those increases predicted in 2007 are still applicable today, he said, “We won’t know until we have a contract.”

Tyrone Jue, a spokesman for the SFPUC, confirmed that the agency is currently still in negotiations with Power Choice LLC to finalize rates and the percentage of energy that will come from renewable energy sources. He said that their goal is to provide 51 percent of energy from renewable sources by 2017, but since contracts have not been finalized, he couldn’t say what that percentage will be to start out.

PG&E spokesman Joe Molica said that 14.5 percent of PG&E-generated energy currently comes from renewable sources, and that the company has contracts that promise to bring that number up to 20 percent.

Another issue that Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi and others brought up at the rally was a ballot measure on the table fully funded by roughly $28 million PG&E shareholder dollars, according to the California Secretary of State’s records, called “The Tax Payers Right to Vote Act,” or Proposition 16. The proposition would require municipalities to secure a two-thirds majority approval from voters before a local government can procure its own power through Community Choice Aggregation.

When asked how this proposition would affect either San Francisco or Marin County if it passes, spokeswoman for Yes on 16 Robin Swanson said, “It doesn’t.”

“Currently there’s no right to vote on this issue, statewide,” Swanson said. If a municipality has already made an agreement to take over a private utility then the proposition cannot affect that decision retroactively.

Proposition 16 opponents could not be reached for comment.

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  • Greg Dewar

    someone on twitter made the joke that if PG&E sent them a piece of mail saying that the sky was blue on a sunny day, they’d still go outside and double check.