Coercion Allegations in Battle Over Shell Public Power Contract

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Maybe it's not your choice...
Multiple accusers claiming to be representatives of Public Utilities Commission-funded nonprofits have contacted Mayor Ed Lee's office, alleging they were threatened by PUC officials to not publicly question the proposed "clean power" deal with Shell -- at risk of losing their funding.

Mayoral spokeswoman Christine Falvey confirmed the calls were received, noting "We're going to reach out to the PUC and see what's going on."

These purported threats did not occur behind closed doors. An observer at last week's Budget and Finance Committee meeting at City Hall claims to have overheard a PUC official dissuading nonprofit leaders from weighing in on the "CleanPowerSF" program, with references made to "nonprofits' PUC funding." This, SF Weekly is told, occurred in and around Board chambers.  

The Board of Supervisors will vote on the $19.5 million Shell contract during tomorrow's meeting.

The allegations came as news to PUC Director Ed Harrington, who is serving out his last week on the job. Regarding the purported public threats made by his underlings, he said "That's not how we do business. That would be surprising to me." He said no one from the mayor's office has contacted him yet, though "I don't know if they talked to my staff."

Tuesday's board vote will be the culmination of a yearslong drive for "Community Choice Aggregation," which would drain PG&E's monopoly over San Francisco's energy market. While freeing the city from PG&E's clutches has become an obsession in some political circles, the contract before the supes tomorrow is rife with questionable details. First and foremost -- it's with Shell, one of the world's foremost environmental villains.

An analysis by the City Controller's Office last month determined the deal would require a 77 percent spike in San Franciscans' electricity costs just to break even, could leave the city holding the bag for tens of millions of dollars, and could drain jobs from San Francisco. What's more, as noted in the proposed contract, "No new facilities are required to be constructed in order for Shell Energy to meet its supply obligation under this Agreement." (see page 37). That means the source of the so-called "green" energy might not be as green as casual observers would think.

Tomorrow's vote was already shaping up to be an intriguing one. And now it's even more so.

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9 comments
brookse32
brookse32

The 77% increase claim in this article is complete nonsense.

 

That is not what the controller's report says at all. In reality, the average customer bill for anyone who chooses to go with 100% clean electricity will go up between 18% and 25%. For the largest group of customers that will mean a $9 a month increase for 100% green. Sounds like a pretty good deal to me. Less than $120 a year to save the planet. That's less than most of us pay for espresso drinks in two or three months. Hmmm. Give up a coffee once in a while, to save the Earth... Sounds like a plan.

DictatorHarrington
DictatorHarrington

Hahaha the SFPUC has adapted, isn't this what they used to accuse PG&E of doing?  "That's not how we do business....there's nothing to see here....move along" - Ed Harrington for Dictator!!!!

joe.eskenazi
joe.eskenazi

 @brookse32 Eric, if you crunch the numbers in the report, it's actually $18 a month. And, as noted in the earlier article I wrote, it stretches credulity to call this "100 percent clean electricity."

 

When you're operating with "Firmed and shaped renewable resources" or "Renewable Energy Credits" you are, quite often, dealing with conventionally created power.

 

So now you're pouring out multiple espressos and not getting beans for it.

 

JE

 

 

brookse32
brookse32

 @joe.eskenazi  @brookse32 Actually it is only $18 a month for what are called 'tier 2' customers (tiers are based on how much you use). Most of the customers in CleanPowerSF will be tier 1 customers paying on average $40 a month. So if you pay between $30 and $80 a month (80 is the average for tier 2), your new bill will between $37 and $98 a month.

 

That is clearly not a 77% increase. Is it...

 

And if you watch Ed Harrington's presentation to the Budget & Finance Committee, you will see why it is indeed essentially 100% green.

 

The valid criticism, is: 'how much of that is new generation?'. The answer is that this is solved by the large buildout component of the program which will install around 400 megawatts of local renewables and efficiency in the first 5 years of the program

joe.eskenazi
joe.eskenazi

 @brookse32 Quoting from the controller's analysis:

 

"A 77% premium over PG&E's electricity generation rates would be required for CleanPowerSF to break even in Phase I. This corresponds to approximately a $18 per month for an average customer."

 

JE

brookse32
brookse32

 @joe.eskenazi  @brookse32 Nonsense. The primary cost on a PG&E bill is fees and charges for electricity, transmission, distribution, and maintenance services and other PG&E fees. Those costs are naturally on each bill and so the important number is how much a customer pays extra per month, not some esoteric percentile that has nothing to do with real world on-bill impacts. And natural gas is normally a relatively tiny segment on residential bills in San Francisco and some customers don't even use gas. Your backpedaling ain't makin' it. 'A' for effort though...

joe.eskenazi
joe.eskenazi

 @brookse32 No Eric. It isn't. You're massaging the numbers by lumping in the electricity generation with gas and other costs. Read my story again. Read the controller's report. It states a spike in electricity costs. I'm afraid you are falsely implying a false implication.

 

Try again.

 

Best,

 

JE

brookse32
brookse32

 @joe.eskenazi One more point. The controller also plays the trick of '77%' by focusing only on the power supply portion of the bill (which is only a small section of everyone's bill). Once you include all of the other electricity costs from PG&E like transmission and distribution costs the bill only goes up around $9 to $18 for almost everyone in the program? So it was incredibly deceptive for your article to falsely imply that a customers whole bill would go up 77%. Wasn't it Joe...

brookse32
brookse32

 @joe.eskenazi Ps: The trick that the controller used is to focus on the average of all customers including commercial. That makes the average increase look much higher than it will be in real life.

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