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SF residents favor city-run power company

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According to city poll, 68 percent of voters approve of getting power straight from SFPUC

PG&E building in sf
With PG&E bankrupt and disgraced, the city is making a move to take over electricity distribution.
Photo by Brock Keeling

On Thursday, San Francisco Mayor London Breed released the results of a voter survey indicating that 68 percent of San Franciscans would favor a publicly owned and operated electrical utility, as the city considers a power play in the face of bankruptcy and scandal for Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E).

The poll was commissioned by the city and conducted by SF opinion polling firm Goodwin Simon Strategic Research. According to Breed, “68 percent were in favor of the SFPUC delivering public power to the city,” out of a pool of 435 registered voters.

The SF Public Utilities Commission (SFPUC) is presently conducting a feasibility study about the fallout of PG&E’s recent bankruptcy, which will include “the potential acquisition of the company’s assets” by the city.

SFPUC already delivers much of the city’s power via a 2016 program called Clean Power SF.

“We purchase clean and renewable energy on behalf of our customers, which is then delivered through PG&E’s poles and wires,” according to SFPUC.

In fact, SFPUC claims that, within a few years, SF will already be providing 80 percent of the city’s electricity. (Since the city automatically enrolls residents in the Clean Power program, growth has been substantial. Customers may opt out if they wish.)

In June 2018 voters passed Proposition A in SF, which allows the city to “issue revenue bonds for facilities needed to produce and deliver clean power when approved by ordinance receiving a two-thirds vote of the Board of Supervisors.”

The measure won with more than 77 percent of the vote. Seven months later, PG&E filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, fearing that the price of wildfires caused by the utility’s equipment and policies will be too great for it to bear.

Breed ordered SFPUC to begin exploring expansion of its electricity programs almost immediately after the news broke.