Software giant Salesforce, which is based in San Francisco, is now drawing 100 percent renewable energy in two of its San Francisco high-rises: 50 Fremont Center and 350 Mission St., which together house about 5,000 employees.
By tapping the SuperGreen service, which is generated entirely from renewable sources, as its energy provider, Salesforce will reduce its carbon dioxide emissions by 1,700 metric tons each year — an amount equivalent to burning 1.8 million pounds of coal, or driving more than 4 million miles in a typical passenger vehicle, according to the PUC. City officials are looking for more companies to follow its lead.
“We know that businesses are powerful platforms for change,” said Patrick Flynn, Salesforce’s senior director of sustainability. “To do something like this in our home city and in conjunction with the city is something that’s exciting for all of us.”
Since May 2016, CleanPowerSF has been automatically enrolling homes and businesses in its program, which purchases cleaner energy and sends it along existing transmission lines operated by Pacific Gas and Electric Co. To date, energy purchased by CleanPowerSF is flowing to about 76,500 dwellings, according to the PUC.
Anyone in the city can elect to go SuperGreen, but the program automatically enrolls residents and businesses in its Green option, which uses 40 percent renewable energy. Of all the city residents and businesses currently drawing energy from CleanPowerSF, 3.7 percent have chosen the SuperGreen service, which carries slightly higher costs. Residential SuperGreen customers pay 2 cents more per kilowatt hour than the green rate; businesses pay 1.4 cents more per kilowatt hour.
Although residents can opt out of the program, the city is looking to have all 350,000 eligible accounts signed up with CleanPowerSF by 2019 — about 99 percent of all buildings, facilities and structures in the city.
City officials hope that Salesforce’s move will compel other companies and commercial building landlords to follow suit, bowing to a kind of “positive peer pressure” to sign up for SuperGreen service, said Barbara Hale, the assistant general manager for power at the PUC.
“I think there’s a bit of social values credibility — ‘Oh, you have more credibility than I do because I’m not in the program. I should get in the program,’” she said.
In late April, when San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee set the ambitious goal of having at least 50 percent of the city’s electricity flow from renewable sources by 2020, he made clear that reaching that target would rest largely on the success of CleanPowerSF.
“The subscription of Salesforce to the SuperGreen product is a strong signal that being sustainable doesn’t have to come at the expense of a sound economy,” said Tyrone Jue, a senior adviser to Lee on environmental issues. “We hope that Salesforce is the first of many hands that we see raised to enroll in the 100 percent renewable energy program,” he said.
Beginning next year, the PUC will begin enrolling more businesses in CleanPowerSF, said Charles Sheehan, a spokesman for the agency, including more large commercial buildings — the types of structures with the largest electricity demands. Their involvement, Sheehan said, will be essential if the city hopes to meet its bold renewable energy goals in time.
“Without them, if they’re not participating, you’re not going to get those heavy greenhouse gas reductions,” he said. “But when you get the big energy users signing up for CleanPowerSF, that’s how you get to 50 percent renewable or better.”