The missing element of the Renewable Energy study


Since San Francisco's Local Agency Formation Commission is meeting Dec. 7 to talk about renewable energy, I went and read the 100-page report of the Mayor's Task Force on Renewable Energy, which offers 39 different suggestions for meeting the goal of 100 renewable electricity in the city by 2020.

That's a pretty ambitious goal. The guy who set it, Gavin Newsom, loved lofty, ambitious projects, particularly when he was never going to be the one to carry them out. So too here: Newsom announced the city's goal in 2010, shortly before he left for the Lieutenant Governor's Office. Ed Le convened the task force earlier this year, and the members, most of whom have legitimate qualifications for the job, got right to work.

The most important conclusion of the report: Yes, it's financially and technologically feasible to generate all of San Francisco's electricity from reneweable sources, and we can get their in a short eight years. One key element: More distributed generation -- that is, the city needs to create financial and regulatory incentives for people to put solar panels on their roofs. In San Francisco, with sun much of the year (and small houses), a rooftop solar installation can pretty much power the average single-family home and can pick up a fair share of the load of the typical four-unit building.

But while the report gives a shout-out to CleanPowerSF, which will soon be offering 100 percent renewable energy service (for a slightly higher price), and talks about the need for the city to build its own renewable generation facilities, which have to be a part of the plan. But it has a glaring omission -- it doesn't once mention public power.

Why is that an omission? Because San Francisco is never getting to 100 percent renewables while Pacific Gas & Electric Co. still controls the grid.

Right now, with today's technology, you can't get close to 100 percent without a significant amount of distributed generation. Lots and lots of people have to generate their own power -- at which point, they no longer need PG&E (except that, by law, the grid is the default storage battery, but that's going to change soon, too). In simple terms, distributed generation puts private utilities out of business. So they won't ever go for it, and will -- quietly, behind the scenes -- so everything possible to keep if from happening.

Likewise demand management, something the Renewable Energy Task Force discusses at length. San Francisco already gets about 40 percent of its electricity from the Hetch Hethcy hydro project; If the city could reduce its energy use by 20 percent, that's 20 percent we don't have to generate. And reducing use is way cheaper than building new generation facilities.

But why would PG&E want to sell less electricity? There are all sorts of state laws mandating efficiency, but no PG&E CEO is going to make that a big push; it costs the company money. A PG&E that sells 20 percent less electricity is a smaller PG&E, with smaller staff, smaller revenue, and smaller profits. 

That's why the only way the key components of distributed generation and demand management are ever going to work is if San Francisco gets rid of PG&E and sets up a municipal system. Around the country, the munis are leading the way in renewables, because they have no stockholders to satisfy.

At least that ought to be part of the report, no?



Your battle is over but you just can't let it go.

Bruce devoted his overweight life to defeating PG&E and has nothing to show for it. Have you learned nothing from his abject failure?

SF voters had numerous opportunities to vote out PG&E and yet we/they never took that chance. Are you listening to the people? Or would you rather ignore us?

Posted by Guest on Dec. 03, 2012 @ 4:40 pm


Note to SFBG editorial staff: how about making the default sign-in here "LIAR" instead of the more neutral "Guest?"

Posted by lillipublicans on Dec. 03, 2012 @ 9:46 pm

where their energy comes from and it is about 60% green and renewable.

Your mistake is that you probably weren't counting nuclear as renewable, although of course it is. It's also non-polluting, of course.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 04, 2012 @ 4:01 am


The phrase "psychopathic troll" comes to mind, but perhaps you haven't heard about the recent events at Fukushima wherein voluminous amounts of pollution were dispersed around the world in the air and water?

Perhaps you don't realize that all that super-toxic waste from fission reactors has been building up for decades -- super-pollutants which will remain deadly dangerous for twenty times longer than the current span of human history?

Maybe you haven't been told that great quantities of standard fossil fuel energy needs to be expended to process uranium and process it into nuclear energy? Or that fissionable materials are of a finite supply and thus *by definition* not sustainable?

No. I think rather that you're just a stupid psychopathic troll.

Posted by lillipublicans on Dec. 04, 2012 @ 7:31 am

accidents with all manner of power plants and generators, and using all types of fuel. They are, as you know, very rare with nuclear - three in total globally.

I have swam in the sea a few hundred yards from a nuclear plant. The water was clean and teaming with marine life.

Anyway, technically nuclear is renewable, so PG&E is 60% green or renewable, as stated. Your blind bias against PG&E doesn't change the facts, only your distortion of them.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 04, 2012 @ 7:52 am

PG&E's actual generation of renewable electricity is only 19.3% by state standards (standards which aren't even strong enough, because they still allow generation from environmentally destructive sources like forest biomass and landfill gas). In any case, its current paltry 19.3% renewables portfolio means that PG&E is not even in compliance with state law, which required it to be at 20% by 2010. As long as PG&E controls our energy supply, it will continue to install only the bare minimum of renewables, and behind schedule.

It is time for local communities to take control of their own electricity generation.

Posted by Eric Brooks on Dec. 04, 2012 @ 11:37 am

various sources of their power. It varies with the seasons etc. but if you add up all the "green" and "renewables" and include nuclear in that (which I'm sure you don't, but most do) then it is over 60%.

When I throw the switch, the light comes on. Compare that with muni, run by the very same stuffed-shirt bureaucrats that you want in charge of power. No thanks - if it's not broke, don't fix it.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 04, 2012 @ 12:00 pm those who have responded to you have already clarified.

And in any case, nuclear power creates massive amounts of greenhouse gasses during mining and refining.

So as previously noted, you simply don't know what you are talking about.

Posted by Eric Brooks on Dec. 04, 2012 @ 12:23 pm

sustainability factor.

My worry with the city running the show is that it would go too "green" and we'd be exposed to power cuts and more unreliable power. I'm not willing to risk that, and that is how SF's voters have always voted, if that matters to you.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 04, 2012 @ 12:38 pm

Clean energy and efficiency resources can be just as reliable as fossil fuel, as long as the installations are a broad array of diverse types of energy generation, demand response, and efficiency.

The CleanPowerSF program is designed with that kind of diversity.

It will install solar, wind, efficiency, cogeneration (i.e. making electricity from the waste heat of boilers), smart grids, and storage technologies, all in a diverse interconnected network, which will always ensure that generation is online. And in any case a city wide transition to such resources will take time. At the end of the first five years we will have replaced only half of our electricity needs with renewables. So the fossil fuel that you erroneously consider to be so reliable, will still make up half the energy mix for quite some time.

Posted by Eric Brooks on Dec. 05, 2012 @ 12:22 am

The hype going around about thorium being a safe vehicle for nuclear power is a complete myth. See:

and you can listen to an hour long interview with leading renewable energy engineer Arjun Makhijani in which he debunks the nuclear industry's claims around thorium at:

Posted by Eric Brooks on Dec. 04, 2012 @ 11:49 am

Its a helluva way to boil water.

Posted by marcos on Dec. 04, 2012 @ 1:03 pm

The missing element is Thorium. Please see:'s December 2009 article by Rick Martin, "Uranium Is So Last Century."

Read up on the liquid fluoride thorium reactor at

Read James Conca's blogs in Forbes, particularly his Nov. 18 2012 article "Does It Matter if Humans Trash the Planet?" and please study the graphics therein.

Posted by Guest Mike Conley on Dec. 03, 2012 @ 9:29 pm

Please see Rick Martin's December, 2009 article in wired dot com titled "Uranium is so Last Century". Also see James Conca's article in Forbes of Nov. 18, 2012, and study the graphics therein.

Posted by Guest Mike Conley on Dec. 03, 2012 @ 9:31 pm

"The guy who set it, Gavin Newsom, loved lofty, ambitious projects, particularly when he was never going to be the one to carry them out."

Posted by matlock on Dec. 03, 2012 @ 11:29 pm

are renewable because their energy sources are not used up during generation. Nuclear is not renewable because the nuclear fuel is used up during generation and must be replaced, exactly like in natural gas or in coal burning power plants.

The fission process does not create air pollution per se, but the mining and processing of the fuel creates greenhouse gases. And of course, the nuclear waste is dangerous and poisonous with nowhere to put it. If you are interested, check out a fine documentary about the problem of nuclear waste disposal, "Into Eternity."

A dismissive attitude about the dangers of nuclear power (only 3 accidents, huh?) is suicidal. Those accidents lead to millions of deaths from future cancers and leave vast areas of the earth uninhabitable for tens of thousands of years.

In addition, the nuclear energy industry is a by-product and closely related to nuclear weapons programs. Nuclear weapons testing has led to hundreds of thousands of cancer deaths, and we should always remember the atrocities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Posted by Eddie on Dec. 04, 2012 @ 9:25 am

so long that in practice it is a "forever fuel", and more like soalr and wind than oil, gas or coal.

We've been disposing of nuclear waste since the 1940's without incident. The technology is established.

And yes, I know of only 3 accidents, Chernobyl, Three Mile Island (almost, anyway) and the recent one in Japan. That compares favorably with other fuels which, by definition are conbustible, volatile and dangerous.

The rhetoric about nuclear is overblown, and I am comfortable holding stock in Excelon and Cameco.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 04, 2012 @ 10:16 am

Your claim is simply false. Nuclear reactors need to have their fuel refreshed regularly as it degrades during electricity generation, and nuclear power plants themselves wear out, forcing decommissioning after just a few decades.

Furthermore, there have been many more very dangerous nuclear plant accidents than the ones you referenced, you just haven't heard of them because they have been covered up by corporate controlled media. Worse still, Chernobyl, Three Mile Island, and Fukushima were all far more damaging and toxic than the mainstream press ever reported.

Posted by Eric Brooks on Dec. 04, 2012 @ 11:58 am

Given how little credibility such conspiracy theories have, why do liberals insist on using them whenever they start losing a debate?

Posted by Guest on Dec. 04, 2012 @ 12:02 pm

Nearly all mainstream media corporations are part owned, funded, and controlled by nuclear industry corporations like GE and Westinghouse. So there is no conspiracy involved. These corporations are simply looking out for their own self interest by censoring news about nuclear power.

Posted by Eric Brooks on Dec. 04, 2012 @ 12:28 pm

Not all conspiracies are crimes and not all conspiracies take place in secret. Coordinated operations by corporations advancing their interests are what they're supposed to in order to build shareholder value and profit.

Posted by marcos on Dec. 04, 2012 @ 12:33 pm

no way to verify them. Anyone can claim anything and, if challenged, simply assert that there is a "vast conspiracy". That is why conspiracy theorists have such a credibility problem, and why Hilary Clinton was endlessly lampooned when she ventured down that road.

No doubt some conspiracies have occured, but 99% of conspiracy allegations are, frankly, beyond belief and whacked out, like the idea that the US government did 9/11.

Falling back on a "conspiracy" every time you can't convince someone else is really just a cheap, transparent shot. If you have actual evidence, then produce it.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 04, 2012 @ 1:01 pm

Are you trying to say that the right wing did not plot or conspire to screw Clinton and advance their political agenda, that it all transpired out of sheer happenstance?


1. A secret plan by a group to do something unlawful or harmful.
2. The action of plotting or conspiring.

Posted by marcos on Dec. 04, 2012 @ 1:04 pm

her husband's job to try and save his job when he shtupped Monica.

But if you have evidence of a crime, why are you sitting on it?

Posted by Guest on Dec. 04, 2012 @ 1:27 pm

Conspiracy means to plot or scheme as well as to plot or scheme to commit a crime. The Republicans conspired with Kenneth Starr to take Clinton down the same way that Ed Lee conspired with the DA and DV hacks to take Mirkarimi down. Both failed.

Posted by marcos on Dec. 04, 2012 @ 2:34 pm

Again, when you have proof of a crime, let us know.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 04, 2012 @ 3:22 pm

And it would be more civil to simply assert that you disagree rather than make dismissive statements like "nonsense". You do the green cause little good by appearing intolerant and angry.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 04, 2012 @ 12:39 pm

You'd think people who are associated with advocacy groups in the city would at least try to come across as reasonable, tolerant, and understanding of other points of view, learning to turn the other cheek when someone disagrees with them or attacks them publicly. But not Eric, some members of the Green Party and his best buds Marcos and Lilli. They'll just as soon rip you a new one if you cross or challenge them, or they'll trot out the condescending, demeaning approach to mix things up.

Anyone who posts over and over and uses their own name on public chatboards like this are most likely media whores who relish in the attention, even negative attention. I prefer not to read Star Magazine or use Yahoo to avoid media whore stories whenever possible, but it's unavoidable here since they dominate this chatboard with their obsessive posts. If you include Troll and Snap, almost every story has 25-35% of the posts under their names. That doesn't leave a lot of space for other people to breathe when just a few dominate the media airways so relentlessly.

Filtering technology is always improving since companies know how negative-nellies can quickly sour an atmosphere, limit creativity, and stifle expression. One day the Guardian may adopt such technology and posters will be able to choose to interact with people who don't make their blood boil or tempers flare, and where reasonable people can disagree reasonably, narrowing differences whenever possible. And the obsessive media whores can create their own sandbox and have as much fun as they desire too. Maybe Facebook has already solved this problem since it seems FB conversations among friends are much more mature and enlightening than anything found on this website.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 04, 2012 @ 3:45 pm

you reference comment under an identifiable name unlike the default "Guest." You appear to talk a lot also.

Posted by Eddie on Dec. 04, 2012 @ 4:40 pm

The conspiracy is so vast that the details are hidden in plain sight:

[16][17] Date Location Description Deaths Cost
(in millions
2006 $US) INES
October 10, 1957 Sellafield, Cumberland, United Kingdom A fire at the British atomic bomb project destroyed the core and released an estimated 750 terabecquerels (20,000 curies) of radioactive material into the environment. 0 5

January 3, 1961 Idaho Falls, Idaho, United States Explosion at SL-1 prototype at the National Reactor Testing Station. All 3 operators were killed when a control rod was removed too far. 3 22 4

October 5, 1966 Frenchtown Charter Township, Michigan, United States Partial core meltdown of the Fermi 1 Reactor at the Enrico Fermi Nuclear Generating Station. No radiation leakage into the environment. 0

January 21, 1969 Lucens reactor, Vaud, Switzerland On January 21, 1969, it suffered a loss-of-coolant accident, leading to a partial core meltdown and massive radioactive contamination of the cavern, which was then sealed. 0 4

1975 Sosnovyi Bor, Leningrad Oblast, Russia There was reportedly a partial nuclear meltdown in Leningrad nuclear power plant reactor unit 1.

December 7, 1975 Greifswald, East Germany Electrical error causes fire in the main trough that destroys control lines and five main coolant pumps 0 443 3

January 5, 1976 Jaslovské Bohunice, Czechoslovakia Malfunction during fuel replacement. Fuel rod ejected from reactor into the reactor hall by coolant (CO2).[19] 2 4

February 22, 1977 Jaslovské Bohunice, Czechoslovakia Severe corrosion of reactor and release of radioactivity into the plant area, necessitating total decommission 0 1,700 4

March 28, 1979 Three Mile Island, Pennsylvania, United States Loss of coolant and partial core meltdown due to operator errors. There is a small release of radioactive gases. See also Three Mile Island accident health effects. 0 2,400 5

September 15, 1984 Athens, Alabama, United States Safety violations, operator error, and design problems force a six year outage at Browns Ferry Unit 2. 0 110

March 9, 1985 Athens, Alabama, United States Instrumentation systems malfunction during startup, which led to suspension of operations at all three Browns Ferry Units 0 1,830

April 11, 1986 Plymouth, Massachusetts, United States Recurring equipment problems force emergency shutdown of Boston Edison’s Pilgrim Nuclear Power Plant 0 1,001

April 26, 1986 Chernobyl, Ukrainian SSR Overheating, steam explosion, fire, and meltdown, necessitating the evacuation of 300,000 people from Chernobyl and dispersing radioactive material across Europe (see Chernobyl disaster effects) 56 direct; 4,000 cancer[20] 6,700 7

May 4, 1986 Hamm-Uentrop, Germany Experimental THTR-300 reactor releases small amounts of fission products (0.1 GBq Co-60, Cs-137, Pa-233) to surrounding area 0 267

March 31, 1987 Delta, Pennsylvania, United States Peach Bottom units 2 and 3 shutdown due to cooling malfunctions and unexplained equipment problems 0 400

December 19, 1987 Lycoming, New York, United States Malfunctions force Niagara Mohawk Power Corporation to shut down Nine Mile Point Unit 1 0 150

March 17, 1989 Lusby, Maryland, United States Inspections at Calvert Cliff Units 1 and 2 reveal cracks at pressurized heater sleeves, forcing extended shutdowns 0 120

March 1992 Sosnovyi Bor, Leningrad Oblast, Russia An accident at the Sosnovy Bor nuclear plant leaked radioactive gases and iodine into the air through a ruptured fuel channel.

February 20, 1996 Waterford, Connecticut, United States Leaking valve forces shutdown Millstone Nuclear Power Plant Units 1 and 2, multiple equipment failures found 0 254

September 2, 1996 Crystal River, Florida, United States Balance-of-plant equipment malfunction forces shutdown and extensive repairs at Crystal River Unit 3 0 384

September 30, 1999 Ibaraki Prefecture, Japan Tokaimura nuclear accident killed two workers, and exposed one more to radiation levels above permissible limits. 2 54 4

February 16, 2002 Oak Harbor, Ohio, United States Severe corrosion of control rod forces 24-month outage of Davis-Besse reactor 0 143 3

August 9, 2004 Fukui Prefecture, Japan Steam explosion at Mihama Nuclear Power Plant kills 5 workers and injures 6 more 5 9 1

July 25, 2006 Forsmark, Sweden An electrical fault at Forsmark Nuclear Power Plant caused one reactor to be shut down 0 100 2

March 11, 2011 Fukushima, Japan A tsunami flooded and damaged the 5 active reactor plants drowning two workers. Loss of backup electrical power led to overheating, meltdowns, and evacuations.[21] One man died suddenly while carrying equipment during the clean-up. 1 non nuclear accident caused.[22]

Posted by marcos on Dec. 04, 2012 @ 2:49 pm

Only 4 incidents this century is a very low incidence rate.

I suspect more people have been killed in coal mines, oil rigs, gas explosions, electric shocks etc.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 04, 2012 @ 3:25 pm

I *highly* recommend it for the current events and music. Plays on KALW Sundays at noon.

I mention it here because of the semi-regular segment he does on nuclear power, which might go by the title "Clean, Safe, Too Cheap to Meter." He uses that time to discus nuclear happenings with his imaginary character "Atty" The Atom who, as you might guess, is a completely blind-to-reason proponent for nuclear power.

Atty, of course, is just another of the character voices that the multi-talented Shearer does.

*I have no pecuniary interest at all in it, just that HS is really cool. Also does a great focus on the Army Corps of Engineers and other malefactors.

Posted by lillipublicans on Dec. 04, 2012 @ 3:54 pm

Damn the corps!

Posted by marcos on Dec. 04, 2012 @ 9:58 pm

that more people have been killed in coal mines, etc. However, a nuclear accident kills people at the time of the accident and for many years later because of the cancers caused by released radioactive materials.

Also, there is no technology for dealing with nuclear waste. It is mainly stored within the plants that generate it.

Finally, nuclear is the only power source whose default status is meltdown. Without human intervention to cool the nuclear material, it will meltdown. So if catastrophe strikes and offsite power is unavailable, hello meltdown. That is the scenario that occurred at Fukushima. At all other types of generating facilities, if people can't keep them running, the plants shut down. If people can't keep a nuclear plant running, the plant melts down.

Posted by Eddie on Dec. 04, 2012 @ 9:16 pm

Boiling water reactors default to meltdown, but there are other reactor designs that can handle very high temperature operation by default. The Pebble Bed Reactor for one, is a gas cooled experimental reactor design that supposedly can't melt down by design.

When I was in Computer Science school in the 1980s in Austin, the department had classes in a few adjacent buildings including one that housed the Nuclear Physics department. In the hallway was a photo of a reactor with the blue Cherenkov radiation and a sign that said "Know Nukes." So I did.

The problem with nukes is the full life cycle of a couple of billion years of a reactor is fraught with environmental risk from mining of uranium to enrichment to operations and disposal. A billion or so years of radioactive contamination under worse cases all for a few decades of power.

Nuclear power is a helluva way to boil water.

Posted by marcos on Dec. 04, 2012 @ 10:13 pm