4th Annual Clean Power, Healthy Communities Conference: A Powerful Gathering

On October 17th, 2013, 170 community leaders and renewable energy advocates representing 90 organizations convened at the California Endowment’s Conference Center in downtown Oakland for the fourth annual Clean Power, Healthy Communities Conference, hosted by the Local Clean Energy Alliance. Photographs of the Conference as well as videos of the sessions are available on the Local Clean Energy Alliance’s Conference website.

Diversity was the cornerstone of this year’s Conference, which since 2010 has brought together advocates, stakeholders, public decision makers, community organizers, labor, and business people who support clean energy and healthy communities in the Bay Area. Of the Conference’s forty speakers, more than half were women and people of color, ranging in age from early twenties to late sixties, and hailing from a range of socioeconomic and professional backgrounds. It is through this diversity that the Clean Power, Healthy Communities Conference demonstrates a growing consensus that local clean energy development can engage and strengthen communities in the face of climate change.

“What we share is the need to figure out a future that no one else can figure out for us. ...It’s exactly a diverse gathering like this that is necessary to chart our future,” said Al Weinrub, Coordinator of the Local Clean Energy Alliance. Participants explored solutions to the political and financial challenges of developing community-based renewable energy resources, and how a robust local renewable energy economy can meet the economic development, employment, and health needs of Bay Area communities.

The Conference featured a keynote address by Tom Steyer, California policy mover and shaker, referred to by Bloomberg Businessweek as a "Climate-Change Batman." Steyer was a leading force behind the defeat of Prop 23, Big Oil's attack on California's Global Warming Solutions Act, in 2012. He was also the architect in 2013 of Prop 39, which closed a $1.1 billion annual corporate tax loophole to fund energy-efficiency in schools. In his speech, Steyer highlighted the importance of diverse community engagement in local clean energy development: “I think this is the way we’ll get measured as a people. ... to have the kind of revolution that we need to get done what absolutely essentially we need to get done. So if it happens on a community level, I am all behind it, because if you get...different communities pushing on this, it will work. And if we’re counting on Washington, D.C. to save us, that is an absolutely optimistic view of the world.”

The Conference Program included themes of local clean energy, sustainable economy, equitable development, resilient communities, energy democracy and community power. Speakers described their organizations’ efforts to oppose fossil fuel expansion in the Bay Area and to promote efforts to reduce energy use, develop local solar PV, and create Community Choice energy programs that meet community energy needs.

As an added feature, the Clean Power, Healthy Communities Conference featured distinct spiritual and artistic elements. The Conference was opened by four rounds of spiritual blessing songs offered by traditional Native American Ohlone Nation activists Wichacaluta Candelaria and Anthony Sul. Bay Area poet, scholar and long-time anti-nuclear activist Rafael Jesus Gonzalez reminded Conference participants of the significance of the collective work: “Thanks be for the sustenance & strength for our dance & the work of justice, of peace.”