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drafting group

Sustainability Plan / Energy, Climate Change and Ozone Depletion / Notes

There were three local issues: municipalization, banning large new power plants (specifically, the proposed co-generation plant in Bayview), and under-grounding of all power lines in the city, on which there were significant differences of opinion within the drafting group. The following outline of the points raised may inform public comment on these issues:

1. Municipalization
  • Municipalization would serve the goal of democratic local control because the City would be accountable to local people (as opposed to stockholders).

  • The funds from operating a public power system could be used to support energy efficiency and renewable energy investments.

  • The City would be in a position to purchase renewable energy supplies available on the market and not buy power from the Diablo Canyon nuclear plant (which currently supplies 15% of the electricity used in San Francisco).
  • Restructuring and competition are happening now. The State Public Utilities Commission says all residents will be able to choose their own supplier by 2003.

  • Because the utility has made previous investments, the State is going to allow them to charge an exit-fee to users who choose to purchase their power from someone else.

  • The relevance to sustainability of the ownership of the power lines is unclear.

  • The decision on municipalization should be left pending the outcome of the official study of that issue.
The actions that were adopted as a result of this discussion appear above as items 4-i and 4-n.
2. Banning new, large power plants
  • Existing power plants are all located in Bayview / Hunters Point, which is suffering an unfair burden.

  • Fossil-fuel plants, no matter how efficient, still contribute to global climate change.

  • Investments in a fossil-fuel plant, even if it is more efficient, detract from the ability to invest in renewable technologies.
  • Granted that the toxics levels in Bayview should be addressed, a universal ban on one type of technology overdoes the attempted remedy.

  • Some new large plants, such as a solar-power plant, would be beneficial.

  • Cogeneration may be a necessary short-term strategy as a bridge to renewable technologies.

  • A ban would not only apply to the proposed cogeneration plant but could apply to many smaller cogeneration facilities located in San Francisco, such as that at General Hospital.

  • Stopping all cogeneration now would mean buying more power from less-efficient sources from outside the City, notably the Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant.
The objective that was adopted as a result of this discussion appears above as item 4-E.

A proposal was offered that the City withhold approval of any new large plant (50 megawatts or larger) contingent on a plan to meet environmental and equity goals. This was not accepted because it put the neighborhood in the position of negotiating over mitigations. Instead, it was proposed that the City develop a policy to phase out all fossil-fuel powered electricity generation, including the expansion or re-powering of existing facilities. The last phrase was criticized for not allowing the use of more efficient technologies and was deleted. (See
Action 4-o.) Essentially, the intent has been conveyed, but the disagreement over the content of such a policy continues and will have to be addressed in the course of developing the phase-out policy.
3. Under-grounding of all utility wires
  • The reliability of the system would be increased by avoiding downed power lines in storms.

  • Exposure to electro-magnetic fields would be decreased.

  • Neighborhoods that cannot afford the fees would receive the benefits of under-grounding.
  • It is reported that under-grounding is proceeding at the same rates in all neighborhoods.

  • There may not be any electro-magnetic-field reduction benefit, because the lines are now high in the air and under-grounding would bring them just a few feet below ground; significantly closer to people.
This item was set aside.