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Will Public Banking Bring More Clean Energy Programs to California?

By Nithin Coca - Sharable, September 28, 2017

At a recent forum at Oakland City Hall, experts from the public banking and community energy sectors explored how the creation of a public bank could help communities transition to clean energy while creating economic opportunities.

"We need to build a more sustainable world, we need to be using energy that is positive for the environment and community, and we need to do it a way that support local jobs," said Rebecca Kaplan, Oakland City Councilmember Rebecca Kaplan who is leading the public bank creation efforts.

The forum took place in Oakland, California, just days after the approval of a resolution to fund a feasibility study by the City Council, with support from neighboring cities. The first and only public bank in the U.S. is the Bank of North Dakota.

"A public bank can really create community wealth in ways other institutions are not capable off," said Gregory Rosen, the founder of High Noon Advisors, a local consulting firm with experience in clean energy investing. "It can help people of different backgrounds and income levels come together, for the good of the community."

Diablo Canyon nuclear plant to be shut down, power replaced by renewables, efficiency, storage

By Damon Moglen and Julia Peek - Friends of the Earth, June 21, 2016

An historic agreement has been reached between Pacific Gas and Electric, Friends of the Earth, and other environmental and labor organizations to replace the Diablo Canyon nuclear reactors with greenhouse-gas-free renewable energy, efficiency and energy storage resources. Friends of the Earth says the agreement provides a clear blueprint for fighting climate change by replacing nuclear and fossil fuel energy with safe, clean, cost-competitive renewable energy. 

The agreement, announced today in California, says that PG&E will renounce plans to seek renewed operating licenses for Diablo Canyon’s two reactors -- the operating licenses for which expire in 2024 and 2025 respectively. In the intervening years, the parties will seek Public Utility Commission approval of the plan which will replace power from the plant with renewable energy, efficiency and energy storage resources. Base load power resources like Diablo Canyon are becoming increasingly burdensome as renewable energy resources ramp up. Flexible generation options and demand-response are the energy systems of the future.

By setting a certain end date for the reactors, the nuclear phase out plan provides for an orderly transition. In the agreement, PG&E commits to renewable energy providing 55 percent of its total retail power sales by 2031, voluntarily exceeding the California standard of 50 percent renewables by 2030.

"This is an historic agreement," said Erich Pica, president of Friends of the Earth. "It sets a date for the certain end of nuclear power in California and assures replacement with clean, safe, cost-competitive, renewable energy, energy efficiency and energy storage. It lays out an effective roadmap for a nuclear phase-out in the world's sixth largest economy, while assuring a green energy replacement plan to make California a global leader in fighting climate change."

A robust technical and economic report commissioned by Friends of the Earth served as a critical underpinning for the negotiations. The report, known as “Plan B,” provided a detailed analysis of how power from the Diablo Canyon reactors could be replaced with renewable, efficiency and energy storage resources which would be both less expensive and greenhouse gas free. With the report in hand, Friends of the Earth’s Damon Moglen and Dave Freeman engaged in discussions with the utility about the phase-out plan for Diablo Canyon. NRDC was quickly invited to join. Subsequently, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 1245, Coalition of California Utility Employees, Environment California and Alliance for Nuclear Responsibility partnered in reaching the final agreement. The detailed phase out proposal will now go to the California Public Utility Commission for consideration. Friends of the Earth (and other NGO parties to the agreement) reserve the right to continue to monitor Diablo Canyon and, should there be safety concerns, challenge continued operation.

The agreement also contains provisions for the Diablo Canyon workforce and the community of San Luis Obispo. “We are pleased that the parties considered the impact of this agreement on the plant employees and the nearby community,” said Pica. “The agreement provides funding necessary to ease the transition to a clean energy economy.” 

Diablo Canyon is the nuclear plant that catalyzed the formation of Friends of the Earth in 1969. When David Brower founded Friends of the Earth the Diablo Canyon was the first issue on the organization’s agenda and Friends of the Earth has been fighting the plant ever since. This agreement is not only a milestone for renewable energy, but for Friends of the Earth as an organization.

For more information, see the final, signed Joint Proposal and the Joint Letter to the State Lands Commission.

Energy Democracy: Inside Californians' Game-Changing Plan for Community-Owned Power

Al Weinrub - Yes! Magazine, November 12, 2015

On September 21, Pa Dwe, a 16-year-old student at Oakland’s Street Academy, spoke out against the export of coal through the Port of Oakland to City Council members: “I’m opposed to this coal export because it will make my community in West Oakland sick. I support jobs, but not the kind of jobs that make us sick. There are clean job alternatives, like Community Choice energy, and this will be good for the health of my community. This is my generation; I want to have a healthy life.” 

Pa’s comments exemplify a growing awareness that the people of California can only successfully address climate change by breaking with fossil fuels and the state’s investor-owned utility companies.

These utilities, Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E), Southern California Edison (SCE), and San Diego Gas and Electric (SDG&E), control about 75 percent of the electricity market in California, with the other 25 percent being supplied by public (municipal) utilities.

By creating slick, misleading ad campaigns about how green they are, the monopoly utilities have done their best to fight renewable energy programs. This often happens behind the scenes, and with the willing assistance of the scandal-ridden California Public Utilities Commission—the agency that is supposed to regulate these behemoth energy enterprises.

Back in 2002, in the wake of the Enron-induced crash of California's electricity system—which to this day has left rate-payers bailing out the utility companies— California passed AB 117, the Community Choice Aggregation law. This law allows a city, county, or any grouping of cities and counties, to “aggregate” electricity customers in their jurisdictions for the purpose of procuring electricity on their behalf. Under this arrangement, a public agency—the newly formed Community Choice program—decides where electricity will come from, while the incumbent utility delivers the electricity, maintains the electric lines, and bills customers.

The new program is a hybrid between a public agency and a private utility. The utility owns the distribution infrastructure, but the public is in the driver’s seat regarding energy decisions.

“It puts our community in control of the most important part of our electricity system,” explains Woody Hastings of the Center for Climate Protection in Sonoma County, one of the jurisdictions that has opted for a Community Choice energy program. “That means we can purchase more renewable and greenhouse-gas-free energy on the market than PG&E offered us. But more importantly, we can build renewable energy assets right here in the County. We not only get the benefits of low carbon electricity, but we get the economic benefits—the business opportunities and clean energy jobs—that come from investing in our own community.”

Sonoma County’s Community Choice customers get power that is 30 percent lower in greenhouse gases than PG&E. They also pay up to 9 percent less on average than PG&E customers. In addition, electricity net revenues go back into the community rather than into the pockets of PG&E shareholders and overpaid executives.

Enron Played Central Role in California Energy Crisis

Greg Palast and Robert Bryce interviewed by Amy Goodman - Democracy Now, May 16, 2006

California's Energy Crisis: Power to the People?

By Jessie Muldoon and Todd Chretien - International Socialist Review, February-March 2001

THE LIGHTS are out in California. Rolling blackouts have cut electricity to millions. Only this time, it's not the San Andreas Fault that's to blame. It's the free market.

PG&E "Union" Mounts Attack on Clean Power SF

By Tim Redmond - San Francisco Bay Guardian, September 11, 2012

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s. This article is published in accordance with "Fair Use" guidelines

The union that represents PG&E workers -- and has opposed every single public-power initiative in modern San Francisco history -- just launched an attack on Clean Power SF. And the union's business representative is having a hard time explaining exactly why he's working with PG&E to try to undermine this modest step toward public power.

Hunter Stern, with IBEW Local 1245, sent a press release out Sept. 11 announcing the start of a campaign to convince the supervisors not to approve the Clean Power SF plan. The line of attack: Shell Energy, which got the contract to supply sustainable energy to customers in the city, in competition with PG&E. The pitch:

San Francisco city government is considering a proposal to partner with Shell Energy of North America to inaugurate SF’s so-called “clean power” program. If the Board of Supervisors approves the proposal, San Francisco would pay millions to Shell, one of the most notorious environmental violators in business today.

Shell's a pretty bad company. So is PG&E. So is just about everyone in the energy business. Not justifying Shell's behavior, just noting: If you want a contractor to deliver electricty to San Francisco, you aren't going to get a cool independent small business. You aren't even going to get Google. These folks are evil, all of them.

Oh, and by the way: Shell Energy also sells power to PG&E (pdf). Stern's boss has a contract similar to what the city is going to get. So the PG&E power we all pay for today is in part Shell power. And as Sup. David Campos points out, it wasn't as if the city chose Shell over some better competitors: There was no other company out there anywhere in the world that responded to the city's bid process and offered to work with Clean Power SF.

The key point here is that Clean Power SF is going to use Shell as a bridge -- the private outfit will deliver power generated at renewable facililities to the city's power operation, which will resell it to customers ... for a while. The goal is to use the revenue stream from the sales of power to back bonds that will allow the city to build its own renewable energy system. Five, maybe ten years down the road, San Francisco will have solar generators on city property (including large swaths of Public Utilities Commission property in the East Bay), wind generators, maybe at some point tidal generators, and will be able to sell cheap, clean, local power to customers. Shell will be gone.