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San Francisco - 100% Renewable Power by 2030

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Photo credit: Paul H

Photo credit: BlueOakenergy

100% Renewable Energy Goal:

100% Renewable Electricity community wide by 2030


San Francisco, CA, USA


San Francisco is a renowned city and county on the central coast of California with a population of approximately 825,863 (2012). As of 2011, the electricity mix in the city was made up of 16% non-large hydropower renewables, 30% large hydro, 36% fossil fuels, and 18% nuclear.  The City has a goal to have a 100% renewable electricity supply community wide by 2030.

The goal was first established in a 2008 City Ordinance outlining San Francisco's climate targets.

In December 2010, outgoing Mayor Gavin Newsom, who had just been elected as Lieutenant Governor of California, announced an initiative to transition San Francisco to 100% renewable power by 2020. At that time, a $250,000 grant was awarded to San Francisco from the Sidney Frank Foundation to develop an implementation plan over the next 12 months to generate 100 percent of San Francisco’s electricity from renewable sources by 2020 in support of the City’s carbon neutrality goal.

Incoming Mayor Edwin Lee set up a Mayoral Task Force to advise the City on how to best achieve this goal, headed by the San Francisco Environment Department and comprised of local renewable energy leaders, key stakeholders and other City departments. This Task Force issued a recommendations report in 2012, which suggested six strategies to get to 100% renewable power by 2020.

Mayor's Task Force on Renewable Energy - Six Strategies (2012)

1. Shrink the pie with increased energy efficiency by

- Promoting energy audits and retrofits through local and state programs
- Integrating green building and energy labeling into assessor- recorders database - Tightening building code energy requirements
- Strengthening retrofit on resale rules

2. Encourage local renewable energy, in order to reduce transmission needs, improves local energy security, and keeps the city's energy dollars in the local economy. The Task Force recommended the following actions to implement this strategy:

- Streamline solar permitting and provide online permitting
- Provide stable funding for GoSolarSF (the local rooftop solar) incentive program
- Support net metering
- Develop feed-in tariff for local renewables under CleanPowerSF (San Francisco's CCA program - see details below)
- Integrate renewables on aging downtown distribution grid
- Address solar system shading

3. Break down barriers for tenants, which make up more than 60% of SF citizens, and expand access to local renewables, in order to democratize the local renewable energy economy and support local economic development:

- Passing through costs of energy efficiency upgrades and renewable energy pass-to renters and allowing for this under the city's strict rent control rules
- Encourage green leases
- Expand understanding and use of Virtual Net Metering, which is still relatively new in the industry
- Support community renewable energy legislation on the state level

4. Provide 100% renewable power purchasing options by

- Implementing 100% renewable Community Choice aggregation Program
- CleanPowerSF
- Encouraging robust utility green power purchasing programs
- PG&E Green Option, which is proposed to become effective in 2015
- Expanding deliveries of 100% renewable municipal power by making SFPUC the default power provider for city properties & tenants and by Providing renewable SFPUC power for SF transit providers and new development areas

5.  Encourage private sector investment in renewable energy by

-   Expanding and reducing the cost of clean energy financing. This can be done by
–   Utilizing low-interest bonds
–   Supporting crowd funding
–   Supporting project aggregation in group buys
–   Engaging pension fund in clean energy investment
-   Leveraging the CCA to spur renewable energy development – for example, establishing programs for PPAs, feed-in tariffs for local projects, and on-bill financing for energy efficiency and solar
-   Providing clean tech demonstration opportunities

6.    Expand access to local renewable energy.


Fundamental among these recommendations was adopting CleanPowerSF. CleanPowerSF would establish a Community Choice Aggregation program (CCA), an option permitted by law in several states, including California, that allows communities to aggregate the bulk buying power of its citizens to purchase power on the wholesale market and directly from power generators. In many U.S. states, including California, regulations obligate citizens to purchase power from a local investor owned utility that typically has monopoly control over a service territory. CCAs give communities another choice, with the ability to opt out and stay with the local investor owned utility as a provider if they want to. In California, communities have been adopting CCAs to increase their renewable power portfolios and keep more value in the community. California cities and counties where CCAs have been adopted  are so far able to offer more green for less money than charged by the competing investor owned utility (see Marin Clean Energy, for example).

San Francisco's CCA program was originally adopted in 2004 as an ordinance aimed at installing 360 MW of distributed generation renewables and efficiency upgrades. In 2007, the city adopted a detailed CCA plan with a 51% RPS by 2017 target. To get to 100% renewable power, a fully developed CCA program - CleanPowerSF - was to have been implemented in Spring 2014.

Mayor Lee was initially supportive of the concept of 100% renewable power for San Francisco, but in 2013 withdrew support for CleanPowerSF. By May 2014, the Mayor was proposing to redirect funds set aside for CleanPowerSF for other purposes like subsidizing rooftop solar and LED lights. While important steps, these proposed alternative measures were viewed by renewable energy proponents as unlikely to significantly help San Francisco achieve its 100% renewable power target because the city has very limited roof space; even if every available rooftop were used for solar, only about 7% of the city's power needs would be met.

The County Board of Supervisors and local activists maintained their support for CleanPowerSF, and in January 2015, the Mayor renewed his call for the program, as long as it met certain conditions, such as administering it through the local San Francisco Public Utilities Commission rather than through a third party fossil fuel company, such as Shell, which was originally proposed to administer the program for the first few years.

In February 2015, a timeline was set to approve the CleanPowerSF program by October 2015. However, there was still more work to do, and the first phase of the program launched in May 2016. The opt-out rate as of June 2016 is reported to be lower than expected (less than 1%). In this first phase, 7700 commercial customers  - 35 MW - were automatically enrolled. The first group of residential customers - 15 MW - are scheduled for automatic enrollment in November 2016. All electric customers have the choice to opt-in to the program as of May 2016, and all will eventually be automatically enrolled.

The basic CleanPowerSF plan offers 35% renewable power (vs. 27% renewable offered in the competing investor owned utility plan) for .25% less than the investor owned utility rates. The "Super Green" plan offers 100% renewable power


Other Progress to Date

As of mid-2013, the following additional milestones had been reached in reducing greenhouse gases and adding to the city's renewable energy portfolio:

  • San Francisco achieved the Kyoto Protocol target of reducing greenhouse gas emissions to 7% below 1990 levels.
  • The city reduced municipal, commercial and residential energy use in San Francisco by 45 MW—enough to power more than 45,000 SF households — through aggressive energy efficiency programs.
  • More than 18.5 MW of in-City renewables had been installed, with 15 MW of solar PV (more than 2,000 systems) citywide and 3.5 MW of biogas cogeneration at the City’s wastewater treatment plants.
  • All public transportation in San Francisco was running on electricity or biodiesel. 
  • San Francisco had developed what it reported to be the most aggressive waste diversion rate, green building standards and electric vehicle program of any city in the U.S. 
  • Virtually the entire municipal electricity load, about one-fifth of the total electricity need in the City, was being met met with carbon neutral hydropower.
  • The city was replacing 17,600 high pressure sodium vapor cobra-head streetlight fixtures with energy efficient Light Emitting Diode (LED) fixtures, which will produce a total savings of 5.7 million kilowatt-hours per year with installation to be completed by spring 2012.
  • The federal government’s pending HomeStar energy efficiency incentive program, coupled with the City’s Energy Watch and Zero Energy Homes programs, was expected to dramatically reduce residential energy consumption.
  • The City’s ten-year GoSolarSF solar incentive program was expected to triple the current amount of solar PV installed citywide by 2017.
  • A 2009 Frank Foundation-funded study showed 30-100 MW of wave energy potential off the coast of San Francisco. Potentially large quantities of urban wind and offshore wind energy capacity are yet-to- be explored.



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