Posted on November 29th, 2011 by Ben Lack
Danielle Murray discusses what the city of San Francisco is doing to offer its citizens new ways to purchase renewable power.
|Danielle Murray:||My name’s Danielle Murray and I’m the Renewable Energy Program Manager for the San Francisco Department of Environment. We cover a range of topics everything from environmental education in schools to waste reduction, recycling, composting and again education on those, toxics reduction, green buildings and then the section I’m in is energy so we have a large energy efficiency as well as renewable energy that I work on. Got a couple of exciting things going on right now; one is that the Mayor announced a 100% renewable goal for the city last year, so we’re currently working with a task force of really excellent numbers from across the energy community and local stakeholders to come up with an actionable plan to get us to 100% renewable power for the entire city, not just the municipalities but the community as well. So, that’s under way now, look for that early next year come out with a recommendation report from the task force. The crux of that is community power and local control over power. If we want to get to 100%, we need to either have the help of utilities or our own local power system helping us meet that goal.One of the ways we’re hoping to do that is through Community Choice Aggregation, which is a bill that came out in the California legislature almost a decade ago now that enables local governments to aggregate their customers, residential-commercial customers within their area and source power for them. What we’re working on right now is contracting with a power supplier to provide a 100% green electricity supply for customers in San Francisco and it would be essentially an alternative to the existing utility PG&E, in terms of where people get their power from. The power still gets carried over the same line, re-distributed, transmitted over PG&E’s infrastructure but the power is sourced by the city or the city’s agents. As a result, we can say that as customers of this Community Choice Aggregation Program, which will be called CleanPowerSF, choose to take a 100% green power. That may involve a small cost premium but it’s something that, what we’ve seen from polls and from our local citizens is that they’re willing to pay a little bit more, a couple of dollars a month, ten dollars a month, to have a completely green product coming into their house rather than what they’re getting off the PG&E grid right now, which should be meeting our renewable portfolio standards in California at 20% right now, but actually are lagging behind. So, this is the way to move our electricity supply into a greener space and actually make sure that we’re meeting those state mandates and going beyond even. So, this is a main way that we can do that and we obviously hope we can work with PG&E to get there also and to work with our local citizens to get more distributed generation in the city, on roofs, etc.We’re also looking at some local projects, like a wave power project off-shore, but this is the main way that, particularly citizens who don’t have the roof space for solar system, whether they’re renters or leasers or they’re businesses, they’re tenants in a building that they don’t own can actually buy green power through the CCA rather than only having the option of going with their utility and getting right now it’s about 16% renewable power.Marin County is a great proving ground for doing Community Choice Aggregation. It’s been a great success; they’ve had a lot of interest from their community members, high sign-up levels. They’ve actually got two products; a light green and a deep green product. They’ve got one that I think is 23 or 26% green, that’s their light green product. They’re also offering 100% green product, at a slight price premium over the average utility rates right now. It’s been great to see them move forward and to see the interest that they’re getting and also frankly they’re working out some of the kinks and have gone through the process of contracting and procuring the supply that we’ll have to do that on the line. So, we’re learning a lot of lessons, we’re watching them intently to see how things go and as I mentioned, we’ve opted to skip the light green product and go straight to 100% deep green renewable energy product because we think that there’s a demand for that here in San Francisco. Honestly, we found that the folks who are willing to take part in the program at all, who wanted to see more renewable power, didn’t just want to see 30% or 40% green. If they’re going to opt into this, they wanted to see 100% green power. So, they were willing to pay that very slight price premium in order to say not just I’m doing a little bit better than our utility, but we’re going all the way and we’re getting 100% green power from it.I think that climate change is really the most pressing issue facing the entire world right now. Honestly, I’m incredibly concerned about it. I have been since I was in college and first started hearing about it and learning from scientists the true effects going on in the world and just how dangerous it is and where we’re headed if we don’t change things right now. I think energy is at the core of this issue which is what motivated me personally to get into sustainable energy and I think that’s the driving factor for most people to support renewable energy and sustainable energy in addition to the health effects, which is previously what I was interested in, human health. The way that renewable energy impacts air quality, human health and ultimate sustainability and liveability of this planet is important. On the political side, government has to be there leading the way to encouraging the shift towards renewable energy, towards sustainble sources of power.As we’ve seen in the last few years, it’s very hard to move things forward on the international stage and there’s been a lot of action at the local level. I think working for a progressive city like San Francisco, in particular, has been a great opportunity to move things forward, to set an example and show that you can change the status quo and that it’s possible and can even be practical and financially sound to shift towards, not just renewable energy but all sorts of sustainable measures, like I was talking about in the department, that range from reducing toxics to shifting to green buildings, recycling and composting. So, we’ve seen financial benefits for the city from all of those and our constituents have supported those movements and it’s not because we just live in a fairyland where we think that everything should be good and green but because it makes financial sense for us and it makes sense for our health and for our well-being. It’s a great place to be doing the work and I think that other cities have been leading the way as well and there’s a lot of good work to be done at this level but again you need both the people and the administration in cities, like myself, as the bureaucrats might say and the politicians to be supporting that movement as well and listening to the constituents, who care deeply about these issues and taking that forward and creating positive change.|