San Francisco Votes to Retail Hydro

30 Nov 2014

The San Francisco board of supervisors voted Nov. 25 to expand its allotment of hydroelectricity from the Hetch Hetchy reservoir beyond the city’s own wholesale requirements.

“The [city] currently sells its Hetch Hetchy hydroelectric power at a subsidized rate to municipal departments and then sells the significant remaining generated power on the wholesale market outside of San Francisco,” noted supervisor Scott Weiner.

Expanding the retail sales would allow for “much-needed revenues to fund key infrastructure needs. Currently, [San Francisco’s Public Utilities Commission Power Enterprise] does not have a large enough retail customer base to generate resources to maintain its infrastructure, including streetlights,” Weiner added.

The monopoly utility that serves retail customers in the city, Pacific Gas & Electric, did not reject the plan outright, although there are no specifics over how billing would work.

“For more than 100 years, it has been PG&E’s privilege to provide our customers clean reliable and affordable energy, and we look forward to the opportunity to do so for many years to come. We will continue to work with the city on this issue,” according to utility spokesperson Jason King.

Hydroelectricity from the dam at Hetch Hetchy was authorized by Congress in 1913, under the Raker Act. Flooding the Hetch Hetchy Valley from the Tuolumne River was a trade-off for saving the Yosemite Valley from another dam. In return, San Francisco is supposed to receive the electricity from Hetch Hetchy. PG&E, however, built the transmission lines between the mountains and the city and has kept control over distribution.

Weiner stated that the power base could be expanded to retail outlets by 100 MW, and that “would increase revenues by $40 million.”

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