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San Francisco Accelerates Plans for Carbon Neutrality

Mayor London Breed announced that the city will aim to be carbon neutral by 2045 and the municipal electric program CleanPowerSF will provide carbon-free electricity by 2025, both are five years earlier than previously outlined.

(TNS) — San Francisco is accelerating its efforts to eliminate its carbon footprint and supply residents with 100 percent clean electricity.

Mayor London Breed announced Thursday that the city will seek to become carbon neutral, meaning there will be no net release of greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere, by 2045 instead of 2050.

At the same time, the municipal electricity supply program CleanPowerSF is on track to provide its customers with completely carbon-free electricity by 2025, also five years ahead of its original goal, Breed said.

The two goals are essential components of the city's broader push to curb its contributions to climate change. And they come amid a series of governmental attempts to advance more ambitious environmental policies as the impacts of rising temperatures become ever clearer through extreme weather events. President Biden has set his own goal of reducing emissions by as much as 52 percent below 2005 levels by 2030.

"It's time to start upping the ante," Breed said at a news conference outside Chase Center in Mission Bay. "There's so much at stake here. I don't want the next generation of young people to look back and say, 'What did they do? Why didn't they act sooner?'"

Chase Center has become the latest facility to meet the requirements of San Francisco's environmentally friendly building program. General Manager Kim Stone said the arena's ability to recover water from its bathrooms, capture rainfall on the roof and automatically turn off lights when rooms are unused had helped the facility meet the green threshold.

San Francisco's carbon emissions already have fallen 41 percent below their 1990 levels, according to city officials. The city had been aiming to meet that goal by 2025, but CleanPowerSF's renewable energy agreements have helped reach the milestone early.

CleanPowerSF is a community-choice aggregation program, meaning it buys power that's distributed through poles and wires owned by Pacific Gas and Electric Co. About 380,000 customer accounts are served by CleanPowerSF, which offers two mixes of electricity — one that's 50 percent renewable and another that's 100 percent renewable but charges higher prices.

City leaders said their aggressive pursuit of solar, wind and battery storage contracts had helped get San Francisco to the point where all CleanPowerSF customers could be supplied with completely clean electricity by 2025. At that point, the city will continue to offer the SuperGreen premium power plan, but without some energy from large hydroelectric projects that other customers would receive.

"What used to be referred to as 'alternative energy' — renewables — now that's the base," said Barbara Hale, the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission's assistant general manager for power enterprise. "That's how California is getting power, and we're demonstrating that that is doable years ahead of the state's goals."

The SFPUC also will create incentives for residents to buy electric stoves and heaters instead of gas-fired ones. Breed said at the news conference that the city's transition to carbon neutrality should be seamless and not "something that interferes with anyone's life."

"Our goal is very simple for carbon neutrality. We need to be an all-electric city — an all-electric city who is operating on 100 percent renewable electricity," said Debbie Raphael, director of San Francisco's Department of the Environment.

Breed is expected to spell out more details next month in new legislation to update the city's environmental code. The mayor also is expected to release a new climate action plan this summer that will detail strategies to meet the goals set forth in the updated code.

The Chase Center news conference also featured Mary Mangubat, a student at San Francisco's George Washington High School who has been a leader in environmental organizing on campus.

"How we address climate issues is clearly one of of the biggest issues of my generation, and we can't avoid this problem any longer," she said.

Mangubat spoke of students' efforts to improve her school's waste management and join with other campuses in a virtual climate strike. She said she was inspired by the work of her peers, but stressed that "the work of youth alone is not enough" to stave off the worst effects of climate change.

(c)2021 the San Francisco Chronicle. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.
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