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Wednesday, September 19, 2012

With San Francisco, a Whole New Environment in California Energy

The past two years have yielded a huge expansion of Community Choice Aggregation (CCA) from just a handful of CCAs in a couple of states into a national phenomenon including major cities like Cincinnati, Chicagoland, and  800 U.S. municipalities now under CCA service. The movement Local Power started has received a profound shot in the arm by recent approval to launch San Francisco's green power program, CleanPowerSF, in which Local Power has been deeply involved for over a decade and prepared many of the elements of the program. This is a long-awaited launch of a program that will have a profound impact on not just the growing California CCA movement but at the national energy policy level. San Francisco will provide intellectual leadership for a growing number of cities that see the logic not just of aggregation, but solar & efficiency finance, and green jobs.

San Francisco's ordinance to launch CleanPowerSF power service in Spring of 2013 also provides for the issuance of Requests for Proposals or RFPs - solicitations to developers of solar, wind, other renewable energy, energy efficiency, and other green technologies for rollout in San Francisco in the near-term (small footprint, easy to permit), medium-term larger projects, and long-term major projects requiring exhaustive state environmental permits. The In City RE/EE rollout will install a portfolio each year based on a financial model, deployment report and solicitation documents Local Power is now preparing for the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission, which operates CleanPowerSF.

An already vibrant movement for greener, more local power in states constituting 25% of the U.S. electricity market is now underway not only in Marin County, but also San Francisco, with dozens of local governments not far behind. Focused on scaled energy localization to make their community not just renewable but locally powered and customer-owned, CleanPowerSF starts with a small amount of power from a global conventional power provider. Our task is to advise the City on how the SFPUC may operate and control wholesale power procurement planned with decentralized demand reduction, in order to achieve a smooth citywide transition to local green power.

CleanPowerSF starts with a 100% renewable power service for a small initial group of early adopters (all residential 30 MW - less than 10% of the aggregated private sector), which will be followed by construction of a new, local, renewable infrastructure to power the CCA, while phasing in commercial customers and remaining residential customers citywide over the next couple of years.

Part of this focus is carbon. The San Francisco Public Utilities Commission's General Manager Ed Harrington spoke eloquently when he remarked to Supervisors that just Phase I of the CCA program (less than 10% of customers enrolled) will provide ten times the greenhouse gas reductions of all City policies of the past ten years combined, at a tiny fraction of the cost. But another rising criterion for municipalities is how to deliver green jobs today - the opportunity to get local jobs because the power generation is being brought to smaller local renewable developments. Localization creates local jobs because smaller companies can win this work, and local labor can be trained and prepared to work for these companies building here in the community.

Many other California communities are seeing green when they consider energy localization - not just global carbon reductions like CleanPowerSF or Marin Clean Energy on the other side of the Golden Gate. It is the green of monthly utility bill dollars not leaving the city or county. PG&E has claimed it is a "local company" compared to Shell North America. But it cannot compare itself to the city of San Francisco, which controls this program and intends to localize its energy supply using its solar "H" bond authority, both to build city-owned plants and to offer financing so San Francisco residents and businesses. This is localism in the true sense - not greenness defined by the logo or corporate identity of a wholesale power supplier like Green Mountain Energy, but greenness defined by  municipal financing, localization, and reducing our dependence on these companies through fundamental change.

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