Case Studies

San Francisco

Economic Development and Clean Energy Jobs
Jobs Estimate for CleanPowerSF, December 2011

CleanPowerSF Community Sign-on Letter, December 2011
CleanPowerSF Legislation Support Sign-on Letter, September 2012

Proposed CleanPowerSF Business Plan, March 2013

[Note: the material below is out of date and will be updated to reflect events in the last few years]

In 2001 the Sierra Club, Greenpeace and others campaigned to get San Francisco voters to overwhelmingly approve a municipal bond measure giving the city a large source of capital for renewable energy projects. Working with energy experts, the city has at last put together a detailed plan for a ground-breaking Community Choice Energy (Community Choice Energy) program that will create 360 megawatts of local clean energy and conservation, including the world’s largest urban distributed solar network and 150 megawatts of new wind energy. The city will gain 100 new wind turbines and 15,500 new solar rooftops. Under the Community Choice Energy, 51% of San Francisco’s electricity will come from clean, renewable sources by 2017.

With San Francisco’s Community Choice plan PG&E will continue to handle billing, metering, and transmission (for a nominal fee), while the new Electric Service Provider will handle procurement on behalf of the City. In addition, the City will issue approximately $600 million in revenue bonds (“H Bonds”) to the Electric Service Provider to finance local clean energy generation capacity – initially 72 Megawatts of renewable distributed generation and at least 31 MW of solar photovoltaic, 107 MW of demand response, efficiency and conservation technologies, and a 150 MW wind farm. At the end of the contract with the Electric Service Provider – upon the repayment of the bonds – the city will own the new generation capacity, and may transfer ownership to residents and businesses that choose to purchase and own systems based on a monthly charge.

Marin County

As of June 2013, Marin Clean Energy has been up and running for almost three years. It was launched with about 10,000 ratepayers, mostly high end, with energy supplied from the market by Shell Energy North America. The initial rate base was chosen to achieve competitive prices with PG&E. The program began with about a 27% renewable portfolio, compared to PG&E’s less than 20%, and offered a 100% option at a premium price. About a year and a half ago, the program began claiming a 50% renewable portfolio through the purchase of renewable energy certificates (RECs) on the market. These claims are always open to question, depending on the quality of the RECs purchased.

Over the last year, the program has expanded by incorporating several new municipalities and extending the program to the entire rate base of about 90,000 ratepayers, both residential and non-residential. This was accomplished with about a 20% opt-out rate. Most all the energy is still provided through Shell Energy, at roughly competitive rates. Bills are somewhat higher because of the PG&E exit fees mandated by the CPUC for Community Choice customers.

The program is developing a roughly 20 MW solar PV facility in the Central Valley. The only new local facility built under the program is the 1 MW San Rafael airport installation constructed this past year with non-union labor. While the program says it wants to build more local renewables, it has no specific development plan of record for doing so.

The program includes a small feed-in tariff offering and purchases excess net-metered generation at retail rates (compared to PG&E’s rates of 3-5 cents/kWh set by the CPUC). The program succeeded last year in obtaining from the CPUC a portion of the mandated energy efficiency charges on ratepayer bills, and is launching some energy efficiency programs with those funds.

The program is run as a joint powers authority of the participating municipalities.

[Note: the material below is out of date and will be updated to reflect events in the last few years]

Marin County is moving ahead with Community Choice Energy plans, with 74% of Marin residents supporting the county becoming a provider of green energy in a recent poll. The County recently collaborated with Navigant Consulting to create a detailed Community Choice Energy plan, which was released to the public on March 6, 2008. In October 2007, representatives of renewable-energy industries and financiers met and determined that Community Choice Energy in Marin and elsewhere will be able to purchase sufficient renewable energy to meet their customers’ demands. Marin has adopted a “meet or beat” PG&E rate structure, but will also provide customers with the option of adding $5/month to their bill for 100% renewable energy (“light green” and “dark green” options).

According to Marin County officials, recent quotes from power suppliers indicate that a Marin Community Choice Energy program could procure at least 20% of its power from renewable sources from start-up in 2009 and achieve 51% renewable energy supply in about five years while remaining competitive with PG&E rates (see the Appendix for more information on Marin’s plans).

Sonoma County

Sonoma Clean Power proposed residential and commercial rates, May 2013
Sonoma Clean Power FAQs, May 2013
Study of Sonoma Clean Power, May 2013 

Sonoma County is developing a Community Choice program that is supposed to launch in 2013. The program development is being spearheaded by the Water District, but will be turned over to an independent agency. A joint powers authority to include the county and municipalities was established recently, and as of June, 2012, other municipalities are being asked to join.

The emphasis of the program’s implementation plan is on the development of renewable sources in the county, largely solar PV, biomass, and geothermal. These resources were identified by studies sponsored by the California Energy Commission under its Renewable Energy Secure Communities program. The Sonoma program recently issued an RFP for both energy and energy efficiency suppliers. A previous request for interested parties returned a very large number of companies interested in providing services. 

The program is in the process of hiring an executive director.  As yet it has not developed a business plan for the development of local renewable energy resources.