The Oakland City Council voted last Tuesday to become part of a regional green energy authority, joining twelve other cities in Alameda County. Together the cities represent 90 percent of the county's total electrical load.
"Without sounding trite, the future is bright for the power authority," said Victor Uno of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers.
Uno was one of several labor union representatives who served on the regional steering committee that helped set up the East Bay Community Energy Authority.
"This will be the largest of its kind given how many cities are joining," Uno said. "It will have a real impact on how power is acquired, and there will also be community benefits and training for workers."
So far Albany, Emeryville, Berkeley, Oakland, Piedmont, San Leandro, Dublin, Livermore, Hayward, Union City, Fremont, and Alameda County's governing boards have all voted to join the authority, which legally came into existence today, December first.
"This is a big deal," said Oakland Councilmember Dan Kalb, another steering committee member. "With the concerns we all have at the national level about how the Trump administration might backtrack on climate policy, it's important that local jurisdictions and states step up."
Kalb said the energy authority will initially purchase renewable energy on the open market, but quickly use ratepayer revenues to build out local renewable energy projects and make the existing energy infrastructure more efficient, while also reducing electricity bills.
The authority is being incorporated under a 2002 state law that allows local governments to takeover the process of deciding where to purchase energy from incumbent investor-owned utilities like PG&E. Instead of paying profits to shareholders, the public authority reinvests ratepayer revenues in lower electrical bills and new green energy projects.
Uno's union hopes to prepare workers for many of the construction, engineering, and maintenance jobs the authority is expected to generate across the region. Workers will be building solar arrays, maintaining windmills, and also performing upgrades on energy infrastructure to make it more efficient.
The new board of the East Bay Community Energy Authority is expected to meet for the first time next January.