CleanPowerSF is a near-perfect example of how a cross-sector coalition of city leaders, policymakers, labor, environmental groups, and concerned citizens ultimately succeeded in launching a program to enable a faster transition toward clean energy alternatives like solar and wind … while providing the community with local jobs and the freedom to choose where their energy comes from.
This long-awaited program was not without its challenges. The effort required strong leadership, committed collaborators, strategic foresight, and vigorous due diligence. Its champions faced a steep learning curve regarding more complex elements of the community choice model, like power purchase agreements and energy contracts, renewable energy portfolios, and long-term project financing. And perhaps most importantly, the initiative wouldn’t have survived without persistence -- as evidenced by years of unexpected delays caused by political infighting and the resulting community outrage that nearly derailed the program for good in 2013.
Marin Clean Energy (MCE) eased the way for other initiatives, launching its first-of-its-kind program to customers in 2010 after eight tumultuous years of advocacy, and providing a valuable case study of demonstrable financial and community benefits. Now there is a growing nationwide movement to bring competition into power generation in six states across the nation. For example, since its launch one year ago, MCE’s younger sibling Sonoma Clean Power is already touting reductions of emissions equivalent to taking 21,000 vehicles off the road, while lowering consumers’ energy bills 6-9%.
Geof Syphers , CEO of Sonoma Clean Power, says that community choice programs are “taking a huge amount of revenues that used to leave the county, bringing them back under local control, and buying cleaner power.” In other words, reducing its community’s dependence on fossil fuels.
Check out community choice with an open mind and an eye toward fine-tuning a program that meets the local needs of your own communities. For resources to help engage community and stakeholder support for innovative, well-tested programs like community choice, go to Path to Positive.
San Francisco is planning to make a number of moves in the next week to help spur the launch of its long-anticipated energy program to compete with PG&E.
CleanPowerSF, the community-choice aggregation program that’s been in the making for more than a decade, is slated to begin Jan. 26 after years of delays due to bitter politics and opposition from the utility monopoly. Now, with a launch date set, details of the renewable-energy program are coming into focus.
Marin and Sonoma counties and the city of Lancaster have already set up their own energy programs. The programs were made possible through a 2002 state law that allowed municipalities to purchase energy at wholesale to offer to customers of traditional utilities.
In San Francisco — which would become the largest municipality in the state to offer such a program — CleanPowerSF got back on track after Mayor Ed Lee signaled his support for the effort earlier this year, after previously opposing it.
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