Oct 10 2017

Opinions: Piedmont Climate Action Plan

Readers will find the reports prepared by Piedmont High School seniors offer diverse observations and opinions in students’ reporting. The following reports are on the  September 26, 2017 meeting.

Climate Action Plan Task Force Meeting

The Climate Action Plan Task Force is a committee appointed by the City Council of Piedmont in March 2017 that will end February of next year. This committee aims to transition Piedmont to become more ecologically conscious through legislative action. This task force meets every month to work on creating, revising, and drafting a climate change plan, which outlines the measures that must be taken in order to lower Piedmont’s ecological footprint. The task force met on the 26th of September to address the idea of making all of the city’s energy 100% renewable and to schedule future meetings and a workshop educating Piedmont’s citizens about the plan.

During the Climate Action Plan Task Force meeting, guest speaker Tom Kelly presented a project that would transition all of the PG&E energy used by Piedmont to 100% renewable sources by default with opt down and opt out options. By converting the entire city to renewable energy, citizens would have to pay an additional price. However, citizens have the ability to opt down, which means using a lower percentage of renewable energy due to the lower price, or to opt out, which means using the standard PG&E energy plan for the lowest cost.

This ambitious project raises concerns because Piedmont residents may not want to pay the additional cost, which would lead to a higher percent of opt-outs and opt-downs and eventually render the plan useless.

Kelly pointed out that, if Piedmont were to adopt this default 100% renewable energy plan, the city would become a leader among the other cities in Alameda County.

After Kelly’s presentation, Emily Alvarez, the project manager on the task force, as well as Tracey Woodruff, another member of the task force, discussed Piedmont Unified School District’s plans with the design of new high school buildings and the overall goal of having 0 net energy.

PUSD’s plan is to know the use of water and energy of each building and classroom, to get rid of extra boilers and possibly some showers, add solar panels to the roofs of the future classrooms, and switching lights at Witter Field and at the school to LED.

The last part of the meeting was dedicated to scheduling a future workshop meant to educate citizens of Piedmont about the climate action plan, especially the possibility of switching to 100% renewable energy.

I personally believe that Piedmont should adopt this 100% renewable energy plan because, first of all, Piedmont is an affluent city and thus has the financial capability and resources to make this transition, second of all, the adoption of this plan could lead to other cities adopting similar plans to address climate change, and lastly, the energy contract gives anyone in Piedmont who doesn’t want to pay as much money the ability to opt down or out. The plan doesn’t oblige anyone to follow through with having 100% renewable energy, but those who do follow through would be offsetting the damage of climate change by paying a few extra cents per kilowatt hour of energy.

No member of the committee spoke out against the plan because they agreed that such a measure should be considered as a part of their climate action plan. This meeting was less opinion-based and more about informing the committee members about the background behind this possible measure.

Students proposed measures like adding compost and recycling bins in Piedmont Park, making public-use vehicles use electric energy, planting trees where ivy once was around the high school campus, and increasing resident-only parking so as to motivate students to walk to school instead of drive.

Tracey Woodruff is one of the members of the Climate Action Plan Task Force who attended today’s meeting. She decided to participate in the task force because she finds participation in local politics important, she cares about climate change, and she does a lot of work in the environmental field. The challenge of creating a plan that takes action against climate change brought her here, and she explained that there is a lot of tension in regards to to the purpose of the plan itself. Some think that it should educate the public whereas others think that it should focus on merely changing city policies. Woodruff believes that the best option would be to adopt the default 100% renewable energy plan, especially since the only other cities adopting a similar plan in Alameda County are Newark and a couple others.

Woodruff’s next step as well as the task force’s next step as a whole is to have the community workshop in order to educate the citizens of Piedmont about the possible plan, engage them in the political process, and eventually gain the support to push this measure forward. She mentioned that the city of Piedmont voted to adopt the Paris Accords, which is another recent step that Piedmont has taken to address climate change. She also remarked that not everyone in Piedmont or on the City Council agrees on what the role of a city is in regards to climate change, which illustrates that it is harder than it seems to pass legislation and policies related to climate change because of the division of opinion. Overall, Woodruff learned that public process is time consuming and requires getting people engaged.

I asked whether or not Piedmont High School was currently using a certain percentage of renewable energy as well as whether or not the school would be included in the 100% renewable energy plan. I asked this while PUSD’s climate change plans were being discussed because I was thinking that, if the school doesn’t want to pay the additional cost of going 100% renewable, then it could at least switch to a PG&E plan with a certain percentage of renewable energy that is higher than the standard plan put in place today. It turns out that the current energy plan is the standard 30 to 40% renewable energy plan, and that the school would be included in the 100% renewable energy plan. However, the school would also have the ability to opt-down or opt-out, but I don’t think that the school would do so considering it plans to produce its own solar energy and thus has the desire to transition to renewable energy anyways.

This experience was enlightening for me because, as a person who doesn’t usually voice an opinion or ask questions about things, I felt like my question added to the discussion by clarifying the role of the school in the renewable energy plan. Also, I now realize that it is important to speak up because almost all of the proposed legislation and measures require public support, which means that my opinion matters and should be expressed. The Climate Action Plan Task Force is a committee that respects the environment as well as the opinions of the citizens of Piedmont. I am glad I was able to attend this meeting to witness how our city functions behind closed doors and participate in my local government as a citizen of Piedmont.

by Sophia Barker, Piedmont High School Senior


On September 26, 2017 Piedmont’s Climate Action Plan Task Force met at City Hall.  The CAPTF meets once a month to discuss their plan to improve Piedmont’s environmental policies and regulations.

The meeting began with a presentation from Tom Kelly on how East Bay Community Energy could increase the percentage of renewable energy used in Piedmont homes, schools, and facilities.  The task force debated the costs and benefits of different energy plans, including one that would supply 100% renewable energy to all Piedmont homes while providing the opportunity to opt down to a lower level of renewables or opt out of the plan completely.

The following topic was a briefing of a meeting that had gone on between the CAPTF and the Piedmont School Board; in which the two groups shared new ideas, and discussed how they might be able to work together on certain overlapping plans.

One idea that Tracey Woodruff, the chair of the task force, mentioned, was to make city and school district vehicles electric and install charging stations.  Personally I thought this was a good idea because it would be a very recognizable change that the public could acknowledge as part of the city’s environmental policy.

Students from Piedmont High School spoke out at this time, proposing plans that could reduce waste in the parks at lunch and the number of students who drive to school.

To inform the public of the task force’s plans, a subcommittee was set up to organize an upcoming community workshop.  There was lots of debate between task force members over how the workshop should be organized, and what the goal of it should be.  Some task force members felt that the best way to inform the public would be a speaker series, whereas others felt that a station-based event would be better.  Many members felt that the purpose of the meeting should be to inform the public about the task force’s plans, but there was a group advocating a more generalized approach to educate the public about climate change.

After the meeting Tracey Woodruff spoke to a group of high school students in more detail about her goals.  Mrs. Woodruff joined the committee because she thinks that it’s important “to have civic engagement,” and because she “care[s] about climate change.”  Her next step in bolstering task force is the upcoming public workshop, which is planned to be an informative meeting to get the public on board with the task force’s plans.

by Will Dalton, Piedmont High School Senior


    On the evening of September 26th, 2017, I had the privilege of attending a planning meeting for Piedmont’s Climate Action Task Force. The meeting began with a public forum, which gave community members in attendance the opportunity to speak to items that weren’t on the agenda. It was at this time that a few members of the community gave their own ideas for what might be useful for the plan. Included in these ideas were the possibility of a community light bulb recycling program, and more “resident only” parking spots near the school to disincentivize driving to school for students who might be able to walk.

    The next item on the meeting’s agenda was a presentation from Tom Kelly from East Bay Community Energy (EBCE). He spoke about what it might look like if the city of Piedmont, or the entirety of Alameda county opts into a community energy (CE) program. He discussed other cities that have made the program successful, and how the success stems from making the basic option for energy provided 100% renewable, as opposed to the lower percentage offered currently by PG&E. At this point, I asked what PG&E was doing to improve their percentage of renewable energy provided, to which he responded that they have options for this, but their baseline option only provides around 35% renewable energy. He went on to give data on what percentage of residents would need to opt out in order for the program to not be worth the city’s money, and all-in-all it seemed like it would be incredibly beneficial for the city of Piedmont to opt into the program.

    The task force went on to discuss a meeting that the city had with PUSD, and described the steps that the district reported to be taking to improve their energy usage, beginning with providing less hot water for PE showers given that a large percentage of water that is heated up each day goes unused. They discussed the possibility of applying for grants to implement charging stations near the school for electric cars, as well as a green infrastructure plan to deal with stormwater and help solve the issue of Witter Field being flooded and misshapen during times of rain. They also talked about the environmental club at PHS, and the steps they’re taking to push the campus’ agriculture and plants to be more sustainable, including replacing the ivy.

    The task force then voted to establish an outreach sub-committee, followed by their planning of a “public workshop and education day” for environmental issues. As the meeting went on, it became clear that the work they are doing is important for the community’s benefit, and that their main goal moving forward is to involve and engage the community in the process of improving our city’s environmental impact. “I hope that we will be able to spark more action in the community” said Margaret Ovenden, a member of the task force who described having gotten involved for the purpose of creating a plan of further action than previous, similar climate plans.

by Micah Bloom, Piedmont High School Senior

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