The Newspaper of the San Francisco Bay Chapter
November - December 2007
Renewable-energy update for East Bay
Community Choice Energy moving forward in Oakland, Berkeley, Emeryville
As Oakland, Berkeley, and Emeryville gradually approach a decision point on Community Choice Aggregation (CCA), recent months have been eventful for East Bay advocates of renewable energy. An informal alliance, including the Sierra Club, Bay Localize, Pacific Environment, a solar-energy company, the owner of Nomad Cafe, and a group of individual activists, has begun meeting twice a month to discuss ways to promote this innovative, yet in some ways mysterious, municipal energy plan in the three East Bay cities studying CCA : Oakland, Berkeley, and Emeryville. The alliance is called the Local Clean Energy Alliance, and its overall goal is to educate the public and encourage those city councils to adopt a clean, reliable, and affordable energy system for their residents, in particular to:
CCA - which we see as the best means available for accomplishing the above goals - is not simple, and we face major challenges communicating with city staff and energy experts, and with the public, including skeptics and active opponents. We want them to understand how CCA can be the means to wide-scale implementation of renewable energy sources like wind, solar, and geothermal heat. We also want them to see how CCA would stimulate creation of local jobs: investing in a renewable-energy plant creates on average 40% more jobs per dollar than investing in coal, according to outside studies we uncovered.
On Sep. 26 we held a workshop on CCA with experts, a local elected official, and 40 community members. The attendees exhibited energy, optimism, and a can-do attitude.
Robert Freehling from localpower.org explained the basics of a CCA, including the concepts of "IOU" (investor-owned utility), "POU" (publicly owned utility) and "ESP" (energy service provider). He pointed out that currently about 2% of electricity provided nationwide is generated from renewable sources, and that PG&E's electricity prices have been increasing by an average of 4% per year, significantly faster than projected by the cities' consultants. The role of the CCA entity, according to his presentation, should be in financing and building renewable-energy sources.
Jay Hermon from REC Solar emphasized the long-term economic viability of renewable-energy installations. Lifetime costs of a renewable installation can be cheaper than from fossil fuels. When the costs of pollution and environmental degradation are added in, renewables prove much more favorable. Jay also spoke about harnessing the many small solar installations that outfits like his are installing on homes and buildings - as part of a larger grid, a "community network", which CCA could make possible. Finally, he spoke about the job-creation benefits of renewables.
Berkeley Vice Mayor and Councilmember Kriss Worthington spoke on the political dimension and the challenges of the CCA approval process. On Jan. 8 the Berkeley City Council is scheduled to decide whether to participate in the East Bay CCA, though due to much missing information and the long delay of the implementation plan, it is doubtful that the Council will be ready by this date. Oakland and Emeryville are meanwhile taking their time in forming a position. Kriss challenged us to approach local elected officials to ask for support.
Oakland, Berkeley, and Emeryville will be deciding some time next year whether to implement CCA. We have a lot of officials to contact, and not much time to organize to make sure that they say yes. Opposition has been expressed in Berkeley - primarily by city officials concerned about the finances. In Oakland, meanwhile, the challenge is winning acceptance from organized labor, which fears a possible loss of union jobs. So we do need your help! Lots of lobbying work will be required, but the payoffs can be huge: to convert our electricity grid from imported fossil fuels to home-grown renewables.
In Yodelers mailed to Oakland, Berkeley, and Emeryville we have enclosed a postcard insert for forwarding to your mayor. Please fill this out and send it in promptly. Or you can write your own letter; address it to:
Mayors Tom Bates, Nora Davis, and Ronald Dellums
Urge them to support Community Choice for alternative-energy solutions.
To get involved in the campaign for CCA in the East Bay, come to a meeting of the Local Clean Energy Alliance; for contact information and details, see our web site or contact Sierra Club Bay Chapter conservation manager or call (510) 848-0800, ext. 307
© 2007 San Francisco Sierra Club Yodeler
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