SF Board Struggles with Community Aggregation for Retail Electricity Support

By Published On: June 19, 2014

A plan to partially de-fund San Francisco’s in-limbo community aggregation plan was floated by the San Francisco Board of Supervisors June 17. Under the proposal, the city/county would leave $8.8 million for the CleanPowerSF. At the same time, it would de-fund the planned $19.8 million for launching CleanPowerSF—the city aggregation program that’s been bogged down in controversy because of expected costs. The balance of the funds at issue, according to the city/county, would be spent on providing retail electricity to large developments, according to San Francisco. The city/county plan to sell its electricity from the Hetch Hetchy reservoir to commercial interests won’t go forward until winning final approval, which is expected in a month. “By increasing the retail base, the [public utilities commission] will have significantly more revenue. The funds will be reinvested in infrastructure,” said supervisor Scott Weiner. With the latest proposal before the supervisors, San Francisco is set to sell electricity at a profit to non-city customers with expected revenue of $10.6 million. If the funding diversion is approved, the retail power is to be sold to large consumers, like the Transbay commuting center, according to Weiner’s office. The SFCleanPower community aggregation plan may or may not materialize. It’s failed to blossom since August 2013. There are negotiations to implement it and also join with Marin Energy Authority, but there is nothing concrete at this time. For a century, San Francisco used its 140 MW system of dams at Hetch Hetchy to supply hydroelectricity for “in-house” usage—that is, the energy from the Hetch Hetchy dam went to city hall, hospitals, and other city-related facilities. The underlying concept is rooted in a Congressional Act that declared the hydroelectricity from the dams at Hetch Hetchy is to be used for the benefit of San Francisco. The dams were a federal tradeoff between Yosemite and the Tuolumne River. San Francisco was supposed to benefit with free electricity from the facilities, but that did not occur. The total capacity of the hydroelectric dams is 400 MW, according to records. San Francisco is not shutting out CleanPowerSF entirely, according to the vote, it’s re-appropriating funds so the city can invest in infrastructure for its water system.

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