IBEW challenges San Francisco to
“come clean” on energy costs
In the wake of a vote by city supervisors to approve a five-year contract with Shell Energy to provide electricity to San Francisco, IBEW Local 1245 challenged city officials to “come clean” about how much the new program will cost electricity customers.
“Since residents will be automatically enrolled in this system without their consent, it is vital the city provide accurate and complete information on costs and benefits – and that has not happened to date,” said Local 1245 Business Representative Hunter Stern. “This opt-out aspect of the program will add further confusion to electric customers, who will have a difficult enough time determining what their new, higher electric rates will be.”
Stern said the PUC staff and proponents had repeatedly cited a “teaser” rate of $9.55 per month or approximately $115 per year. But that is the lowest rate for those customers who use the least amount of electricity in the city, Stern said.
“The actual average rate is now projected to be $250 per year and families with children or multi-family households could pay closer to $500 per year,” he said.
Stern pointed to other drawbacks, including a net job loss for the city. According to the City Controller, moving forward with the deal would cause at least 95 jobs to be lost, undercutting promises to develop the city’s local green economy.
“The deal would take local San Francisco dollars and send them to Shell Energy in Houston, depriving IBEW and other workers the opportunity to earn a living here in San Francisco,” he said.
The contract was approved on a veto-proof 8-3 vote by the supervisors. Ed Harrington, the outgoing general manager of the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission, said the long-term goal “is to really do our own generation.”
Advocates say that CleanPowerSF, as the program is known, aims to build a customer base and revenue stream to allow for future borrowing to build city-owned renewable power generation facilities while advancing San Francisco’s greenhouse-gas reduction goals.
Critics note that the city’s new would-be supplier, Shell Energy, has an abysmal environmental record, and has been called one of the “dirtiest, most regressive companies in the world” by The Times of London.
“Today IBEW 1245 is asking the City to come clean on the actual cost of the program, so that San Franciscans can evaluate the deal with all the facts in view,” Stern said.