SFPUC: Get on the stick

Pub date May 9, 2006
SectionEditorialSectionNews & Opinion

EDITORIAL The goal of San Francisco’s energy policy ought to be to remove all private interests from the generation, distribution, and sale of electric power, and the fastest way to get there is to condemn, buy out, and municipalize Pacific Gas and Electric Co.’s local grid. But community-choice aggregation a system under which the city acts as the equivalent of a buyer’s cooperative and purchases power in bulk to resell at a discount to consumers is a good first step.

Even Mayor Gavin Newsom seems to realize that. Under pressure from CCA advocates, including Sup. Tom Ammiano, Newsom has earmarked $5 million in his next budget to begin implementing an aggregation system that the Local Agency Formation Commission (LAFCO), under chair Ross Mirkarimi, has been putting together.

Now it seems the last roadblock is the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission, whose members suddenly and unexpectedly had issues with the budget allocation when it came up a couple of weeks ago. They wanted more information. They wanted to hold hearings. We understand their concerns CCA is complex and important, and it has to be done right.

But the SFPUC should have been the lead agency pushing for public power years ago. The commissioners should have been holding hearings long ago on the high costs of PG&E power, on the city’s legal mandate to run a public-power system, and on the value of CCA. They should have been pushing the mayor to allocate a few million dollars for a full public power feasibility study and pushed for this CCA allocation as part of their regular budget discussions.

Instead, it’s been up to the supervisors to analyze, promote, and advocate for the program, and it’s been Ammiano, Mirkarimi, and the LAFCO people who have done most of the work.

It’s really annoying that the mayor is willing to put up $5 million for CCA when advocates have had to fight tooth and nail for a few hundred thousand dollars for a municipalization study. But it’s the first time in decades that any mayor has done anything but stand in the way of anything that looked even a tiny bit like public power, so it’s a historic moment (of sorts). The SFPUC needs to actively support this project and begin talking about the next step how to get rid of PG&E for good. SFBG