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Wednesday, September 4, 2013

The real context of the CleanPowerSF fight

The Board of Supervisors is taking action -- or at least, starting to take action -- to push back against the San Francisco PG&E Public Utilities Commission, which is trying to derail a modest move toward public power.

Sup. London Breed is sponsoring a resolution that will likely get at least eight votes calling on the SFPUC to quit acting like a PG& subsidiary end its obstructionism and get with the program:

By failing to set rates, Breed stated, the PUC is "contradicting the policy directives of the Board of Supervisors and neglecting its own obligations" under the City Charter If the PUC continues to refuse to set the rates, Breed wrote, the board will either pass legislation or place a measure on the ballot and "exercise every means at its disposal to enact its policy objective and preserve its role as the elected policy-making body of San Francisco." Supervisor John Avalos has made similar threats.
The SFPUC will likely ignore it, since the majority of the members don't want to defy PG&E let San Francisco develop plans for its own clean energy. The decision had nothing to do with the rates, or for that matter, with concerns over doing business with Shell Oil; Shell is a bad corporate actor, and so is PG&E, and so are most private energy companies. The point of the contract with Shell is to get the city started, to get a customer base and a revenue stream, which can then be used to replace both Shell and PG&E with locally owned renewable energy.

That prospect is what is freaking PG&E out and leading to all the efforts to scuttle CleanPowerSF, which is really a pretty modest program.

If you want to know what this is really about, what the national political context is, check out this amazing, powerful story out of Boulder, Colorado, where the city (with the support of the mayor, sadly lacking here) realized that the only way to get a renewable future was to get rid of the local private utility monopoly. The private company is fighting back, with huge sums of money -- in part because the entire private energy industry, worth hundreds of billions of dollars in profit, is deeply threatened by the emergence of public power as a green alternative in an era of growing concern over climate change.

I wish we had the money to put the Boulder video on TV in San Francisco. I wish everyone who doesn't get what this fight about would pay attention.

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