Going to bat for PG&E

Going to bat for PG&E

By Amanda Witherell

During the coming months Pacific Gas and Electric Co. will be sprinkling $5 million worth of solar panels around San Francisco, to be paid for by its customers. One of the first will be a $1.5 million, 120-kilowatt array at the Giants’ stadium, providing power for an average of 25 homes.

The team was enticed into the project by David Hochschild of the solar advocacy group PV Now, who dreamed of a green 2007 All-Star Game, which the Giants are hosting. To help make an environmental example for Major League Baseball, Hochschild approached the Mayor’s Office, which got involved with facilitating the deal. Somehow, even though the team buys its power from Constellation New Energy, PG&E and the Mayor’s Office ended up executing and getting credit for a deal that neither is paying for.

PG&E’s logos will get big-league exposure when the city’s long-stalled Community Choice Aggregation could have received it, argues Aliza Wasserman of Green Guerrillas Against Greenwash, a group that protested a PG&E press conference March 21 at the stadium and is concerned about the mayor’s relationship with the utility.

“Just as City Hall prepares a final vote to implement CCA, a policy that will break PG&E’s monopoly and attain 50 percent of the city’s energy from local renewable energy, Mayor Newsom is launching several high-profile projects with this company,” she said.

Though it’s unclear how involved the mayor was in passing the project to PG&E, Giants spokesperson Staci Slaughter said, “The city, the Mayor’s Office, and some solar advocates came to us.”

Wasserman cornered the mayor after the press conference and inquired about his commitment to CCA. “He very nervously said, ‘Oh, of course I support community choice. I gave $10 million to it.’ That’s true, but it smells like a bait and switch.”

Originally published March 27, 2007 in the San Francisco Bay Guardian