San Francisco’s mayor was questioned today by several members of the city’s Board of Supervisors over his lack of support for a program that would provide an alternative energy source to PG&E but has been in limbo in the city’s bureaucracy.
Mayor Ed Lee, making his monthly voter-mandated appearance in front of the board, faced five questions from the supervisors on the same subject—CleanPowerSF.
The $19.5 million program includes a contract with Shell Energy North America to purchase energy from renewable sources at an increased price compared to PG&E and was approved by the supervisors in September 2012.
However, the program has languished for months at the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission, which was tasked with setting the maximum rates for the program and launching it, but has so far declined to do so.
Lee defended the SFPUC’s inaction, saying the commission had concerns over the true environmental benefits of the program, which he said has been watered down to include more renewable energy credits rather than renewable sources themselves.
The program “no longer had any direct immediate environmental benefit,” the mayor said, adding that he would prefer a program that allows residents to opt into it rather than being automatically adopted.
CleanPowerSF calls for up to 90,000 San Franciscans to be automatically adopted into the program.
Supervisor John Avalos criticized Lee’s arguments, saying that the heavy reliance on renewable energy credits is only a temporary part of the program, which would eventually include a local buildout of renewable energy sources.
Avalos said the voter-elected board was having its program blocked by a commission whose members are appointed by the mayor.
“This is not a policy discussion we’re having, this is a political discussion,” Avalos said.
He said PG&E and its unions were pushing the mayor to oppose the program so its monopoly as San Francisco’s power source would be maintained.
Avalos said there was not much he was able to do in the meantime to get the program off the ground besides continue to pressure the mayor on its behalf.
“The people of San Francisco want an alternative,” he said. “I think exposing the politics that are behind the mayor’s effort to kill this program is one part of the process to get the program started.”
Dan McMenamin, Bay City News