The Biggest Climate Emergency of Our Time is Undercutting Equity in Climate Solutions—An Update on East Bay Community Energy

(05/2021) As we approach the one year anniversary of George Floyd’s murder at the hands of racist police and the Black Lives Matter uprisings that followed, reparations are still being held hostage by institutions.  Since then, we have seen a rise in violence against our Asian community, mostly the elderly and women, who have been scapegoated for this pandemic.  The reality is that capitalism has been at the root of these injustices. East Bay Clean Power Alliance felt that equity has to be explicit in every aspect of our lives and of our work. Electricity is a human right that has been monopolized by investor owned utilities for too long, leaving struggling families literally in the dark by power shut offs.  Our communities advocated for a Community Choice energy program to flip the script and make energy work for our communities.  Our East Bay area has a wealth of community organizing and advocacy for energy democracy.  But, energy democracy is a two way street, our local electeds must hear and act on these demands.

Earlier this year we redrafted a letter calling for explicit equity investments in East Bay Community Energy.  You can read the letter we submitted here and the online sign-on for organizations.  Since then, we have had some key community organizations and leaders speak on two of the most critical issues that we are currently facing; the unprecedented utility debt related to the Covid19 economic fall-out and the urgency for community based resilience hubs with off grid energy infrastructure to address power shut offs (public safety power shut offs PSPS or other unforeseen crisis).  

Joe Biden’s infrastructure plan calls for 40% investment in historically harmed communities.  “It will invest in Americans and deliver the jobs and opportunities they deserve. But unlike past major investments, the plan prioritizes addressing long-standing and persistent racial injustice. The plan targets 40 percent of the benefits of climate and clean infrastructure investments to disadvantaged communities. And, the plan invests in rural communities and communities impacted by the market-based transition to clean energy.” This is exactly what we need East Bay Community Energy to do for the East Bay and Tracy.  This is how we must jumpstart a just transition to clean energy and build local clean energy assets; programs and projects that create jobs, wealth, affordability and resilience.
At the April 21 EBCE board meeting, about 11 community members spoke during public comment to urge the board to address the Covid19 debt and create a fund to help non-profit organizations to facilitate enrollment into discount programs like CARE/FERA and Medical Baseline and relief programs like AMP or LIHEAP. We also highlighted that other Community Choice programs have issued bill credits to its CARE/FERA customers and even to small business customers. EBCE could issue bill credits to those who are behind on bills or at least issue bill credits to those enrolled in the AMP forgiveness program.  In order to qualify for forgiveness of $500 debt or more, one must be enrolled in CARE/FERA. "The AMP will forgive 1/12 of the customer’s arrearages after each monthly on-time payment. After 12 timely payments, the customer’s debt will be fully forgiven. Customers can miss up to two non-sequential payments, but only if the customer makes the payment up in the next billing due date, including the current bill amount. If a customer misses more than two non-sequential payments, then they will no longer be eligible to participate in AMP."  EBCE could help customers meet the AMP requirements, by issuing bill credits to keep customers in the program.  Since this meeting, EBCE staff has created a website with information and links to sign up for the discount and relief programs mentioned above
At the May 19 EBCE board meeting about 12 community members spoke during public comment on the urgency for investments in islandable solar and battery storage for community-based resilience hubs.  EBCE has been good at securing outside grants for “critical facilities” from the Air District (BAAQMD), but that program does not include community driven resilience hubs in the “critical facilities” definition which means we are excluded from this program. If EBCE is serious about incentivizing local community resilience, they need to allocate money from their revenues for our community to be able to access off-grid energy during power shut offs.  What does fall under the Air District’s “critical facilities” is hospitals, police, fire stations and schools. In order to do this equitably, we must start by deploying these developments in the lowest income zip codes in the East Bay and Tracy.  
What we need now is you to advocate with us. The East Bay Community Energy board will vote on next year’s budget June 16 details will be updated by EBCE here.  There will be a preview of the 2021-2022 budget at the next EBCE executive committee meeting Friday May 28 at 12pm details will be posted here on EBCE’s public meetings website.
Clean Power to the People.