How Local Clean Energy Works
Gases from the burning of fossil fuels for power and transportation create a greenhouse effect. This is already causing global warming, changing our climate and raising our sea level. Air pollution from these sources is also a serious public health problem.
On the other hand, producing electricity from renewable sources like sunlight and wind creates no greenhouse gas emissions or air pollution. Sunlight and wind are unlimited and are free! Power can even be generated on buildings or on vacant land, close to where it is used. This strategy is called local clean energy or distributed generation.
Advantages of local clean energy:
- No emissions of greenhouse gases or toxic air pollutants.
- You and your community have control of your energy choices.
- Construction and maintenance of local clean energy resources creates local jobs for members of your community. This drives a more prosperous economy and local services. Employed workers pay local taxes and buy goods and services in the community.
- Distributed generation creates a more resilient and dependable system. Failures in the statewide transmission grid have less effect.
- Little or no energy is lost during transmission. (The farther it has to travel to you, the more power is lost!)
Examples of local resources for energy production:
- Solar panels on your roof, your local grocery store, or a school or government building.
- Solar panels on a vacant lot, over a parking lot, or over a reservoir.
- A wind farm on land very near to the city.
- Co-generation at an industrial site: steam which would otherwise be wasted turns a turbine to produce electricity.
Making Local Clean Energy
In the example of a solar installation, your installer gets the needed permits and installs the system on your building’s roof. You can pay to have your own system installed or contract with a company or agency which installs and owns the system. The company can lease the system to you or simply bill you for the power that it produces.
All steps of this process will be much easier if you are part of CleanPowerSF.
The free power you generate can be handled in one of two ways:
- Your system isn’t connected to the grid—this is called “behind the meter.” This lets you use the power you make and pay for less electricity from your regular energy company (PG&E or CleanPowerSF).
- Your system is connected to the grid. You use the power you make, and if you are generating more free electricity than you are using at the moment, the excess goes onto the grid and you get a credit on your electricity bill for that energy.
You may be able to sell excess electricity directly to your power company using a “feed-in tariff,” though this is currently complicated and limited with PG&E. Under CleanPowerSF, you could potentially sell excess power at full market value! This will provide a ton of incentive for more rapid solar installation in San Francisco.