Thursday, April 17, 2008

Politics Trumps the Environment... Even in San Francisco

The San Francisco Board of Supervisors yesterday stalled a vote on proposed solar installation grants for at least three weeks. The program up for consideration would dole out grants to private citizens and businesses in San Francisco who install solar arrays.

Total funding for the project would come from San Francisco Public Utilities Commission and would amount to a mere $3 million-- a pittance by today's municipal standards-- so what's the hold up?

The Supes trotted out all of the politically correct explanations: more time is needed to study the bill; it doesn't focus enough on low income housing; will it channel money to people who could otherwise afford to pay to install their own solar arrays, etc. etc... But the real roadblock appears to be good, old fashioned politics.

The program was conceived by, and is being pushed by, City Assessor Recorder Phil Ting, who has no authority in such matters, but who is politically aligned with Mayor Gavin Newsom and rumored to be a candidate for Mayor. Reading the tea leaves, this appears simply to be a case of pols jockying for position.

Meanwhile solar advocates lament the fact that even this borderline symbolic gesture is languishing in political limbo.

A study by the Northern California Solar Energy Association shows that San Francisco ranks last out of ten Northern California counties for per-capita solar installations. However this is more than a little misleading as San Francisco's population density no doubt dwarfs many of the other Northern California counties cited in the study.

S.F. hearings delay solar panel grants [San Francisco Chronicle]