San Francisco Looks to Join Marin Clean Energy Program

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Brian Kusler
    PG&E's efforts to convince customers not to sign up with Marin Clean Energy has earned the company a warning from state utility regulators.

    SAN FRANCISCO (AP) - A program to give San Francisco residents the option of getting 100 percent of their power from renewable sources has stalled, and the city is looking into joining a similar effort in neighboring Marin County.

    San Francisco officials contacted the Marin Energy Authority recently to explore options, the Marin Independent Journal reported on Sunday.

    San Francisco officials voted in 2012 to approve CleanPowerSF, a public utility meant to compete with Pacific Gas and Electric Co. and giving residents the option of obtaining more of their electricity from renewable sources.

    But implementing the program has been stymied by city public utilities officials, who declined to set rates for it.

    Marin energy officials say they are exploring the idea of allowing San Francisco to link up with its program and would discuss the issue early next year.

    San Francisco has 475,000 electricity accounts, according to PG&E. Marin Energy Authority has about 120,000.

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    Marin's program is seeking to expand but currently eyeing communities within 30 miles with fewer than 40,000 accounts.

    "It's important to say that this is simply exploratory at this point. We do not have any intention to expand very quickly.'' said Dawn Weisz, executive officer of Marin's clean authority, said.

    The public power programs are the result of a 1992 law that made it possible for cities and counties to buy power for their residents under a system called "community choice aggregation,'' or CCAs.

    Meant as a protection against price fluctuations during energy deregulation in California, CCAs became a way for localities to expand the amount of renewable energy available to residents.

    It also provided an alternative to PG&E's monopoly in the San Francisco Bay Area. The company has fought efforts in Marin County and elsewhere to create CCAs.

    In San Francisco, Mayor Ed Lee and his appointees on the city's Public Utilities Commission have so far refused to support the new program.

    San Francisco Supervisor John Avalos told the San Francisco Chronicle that Lee and the commission are protecting PG&E.

    "The commission didn't want to upset the PG&E apple cart ... if you upset the apple cart, you don't get any apples,'' Avalos said.

    But Lee said the program is not offering city ratepayers enough renewable energy at the right cost.

    "I gave the commission all the leeway and room they wanted, whether they wanted to support it or not,'' Lee told the newspaper.