Oct 20 2017

Piedmont Electrical Energy Usage, Community Climate Workshop November 7, Climate Plan Adoption in December

On September 26, 2017,  the City of Piedmont’s Climate Action Task Force met to discuss what default renewable percentage the City should use with East Bay Community Energy, establish an outreach sub-committee, plan the forthcoming public workshop and report on their meeting with the School District.

The meeting opened with a presentation from Tom Kelly and Ben Foster of East Bay Community Energy (EBCE). EBCE is a nonprofit Community Choice Aggregation (CCA) electricity purchasing organization representing Alameda County and its cities. A CCA’s function to purchase electricity directly from the companies that generate it, and because a CCA is nonprofit, they have no shareholders demanding profit and they qualify for the nonprofit tax breaks, so an organization like EBCE reaps savings as compared to PG&E where costs are passed on to the consumer.

The City had voted months prior to switch from PG&E to EBCE for electricity purchases, but had not yet decided what the percentage of electricity from renewable sources should be the default amount for Piedmont residents. As it stands, PG&E provides a default thirty-two percent renewable energy plan, whereas EBCE will be able to provide between sixty to one-hundred percent renewable energy. The presentation from Kelly and Foster described the advantages and disadvantages between EBCE’s various renewable percentage tiers with regard to price and carbon impact.

The main issue discussed was what renewable tier the City should choose as its default rate for residents.

Obviously, the goal of the Climate Action Task Force is to get as high a percentage as possible, but if doing so causes a significant economic barrier for the average resident, it would make sense to drop to a lower tier of renewables.

Kelly reported on a study currently being undertaken of the economic burden placed on residents of cities that had gone through similar processes. Preliminary results show that on average, people at the one-hundred percent renewable tier only paid three to four dollars more per month, but these results are still inconclusive, being that only five cities were studied, as well as the fact that the study has not been completed. The City expects to reach its decision when results from the study are definitive.

In my opinion, it seems like a no brainer to set the default renewable rate to one hundred percent, but with only preliminary information, the study should definitely be seen to its completion before any judgement call can really be made. And if it ends up turning out that there is significant financial burden associated with one-hundred percent renewable in similar CCA programs, other options should definitely be explored. During the presentation it was brought up that individuals can opt-out of one-hundred percent renewable to a lower tier percentage-wise, or if they really want, back to PG&E’s service. It’s important that these opt-out options stay intact for the City’s final implementation.

Another topic discussed at the meeting was the forthcoming community outreach workshop and public forum to be held on November 7 at the Community Center. To help this, a community outreach sub-committee was established comprised of Margaret Ovenden and Steve Schiller.

By early November, the Climate Action Task Force hopes to have its Climate Action Plan fully drafted, and available for public consumption. The goal of the outreach workshop is to give members of the community a chance to voice opinions and ask questions about the changes proposed as well as to give the community a sense of what’s new for the Climate Action plan and how the community needs to be involved in making it actually happen.

Piedmont has a unique energy situation as the vast majority of energy consumed is in the residential sector, so for Piedmont to reach California’s carbon reduction mandate, most action is pinned on the individual households consuming energy.

Outreach sub-committee member Margaret Ovenden says that she “ hope[s] that students and their families will attend the community workshop and together think about how they can reduce carbon emissions through limiting home energy usage and transportation.” She continued, “Students have a bigger influence than they realize. You are the ones who are really going to be feeling the effects of climate change during your lifetimes, and even more so than your parents, you are going to see the importance of taking action now before it’s too late.”

The final topic discussed at the meeting was a report from the meeting between the Piedmont Unified School District (PUSD) and members of the Climate Action Task Force. During the meeting it was discussed in what ways Piedmont’s schools can be a part of the Task Force’s climate plan. The School District’s already existing plans for the energy savings in the construction and renovation of the High School will be added as a component of the Climate Action Plan. It was also discussed that even though City and School buildings don’t account for the majority of energy consumption, they play an important role in serving as role models and educating the community about climate issues.

Although at points the issues being discussed seemed arcane, I could see that it’s important for the Task Force and the City to get all the details — especially of the consequences of joining EBCE with 100% renewable electricity as the default — correctly so that citizens will be happy with the results and won’t resist taking action on the climate. As evidenced by this meeting, the Climate Action Task Force seems to be heading steadily towards reaching its goal of a completed Climate Action Plan by December.

by Griffin Ashburn, Piedmont High School Senior

Editors’ Note: Opinions expressed are those of the author.

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