Berkeley City Council member discusses local energy supply

Elisabeth Ludwig/Staff

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After PG&E’s two public safety power shutoffs this past month, District 4 City Councilmember Kate Harrison is advocating the community’s full enrollment in East Bay Community Energy, or EBCE.

EBCE is an energy supplier with a long-term goal to “develop a micro-grid system that is self-reliant and not dependent on PG&E,” according to Harrison’s newsletter. Annie Henderson, EBCE vice president of marketing and account services, said in an email that EBCE is a Community Choice Aggregator provider. EBCE is comprised of 11 cities within Alameda County.

According to its website, EBCE offers three service options: Brilliant 100, which is the same price as PG&E and is sourced from 100% carbon-free sources; Renewable 100, which is sourced from only wind and solar energy within California; and Bright Choice, which offers a minimum of 85% carbon-free energy.

According to Harrison, PG&E controls and owns the distribution lines and overhead wires that provide natural gas and electricity to most of Northern California. The company has been held accountable for the power outages that caused disruption last month for thousands.

Harrison said she is in favor of EBCE for a few reasons: EBCE will both provide more jobs to the Berkeley area, offer clean energy and money paid to EBCE will go toward further energy projects. Harrison said her goal is to eventually move away from PG&E’s infrastructure. To switch from PG&E to EBCE, however, will cost $4 more per month.

“(EBCE has) a very clean energy mix where about 85% of their electricity is non-greenhouse gas produced,” Harrison said.

While residents are granted the option to opt out of EBCE and return to PG&E, according to Henderson, only 2% of residents enrolled in EBCE have done so.

By default, all Berkeley residents are enrolled in an 85% green energy plan, according to Henderson. Harrison said this is because the city was unsure about what EBCE’s rates were beforehand.

“We didn’t want to create sticker shot and a sense of unfairness for low-income residents, particularly tenants,” Harrison explained. “But now that we have seen where we’ve ended up price-wise, I am comfortable recommending people to go up to the next higher tier.”

Berkeley was given a 48-hour notice by PG&E prior to the shutoffs, according to Harrison. The city received 80 calls regarding knocked down trees, malfunctioning street lights and medical support. By switching to EBCE, Harrison said she wishes to avoid this inconvenience in the future.

“In case that these shutoffs happen again, we want to know sooner and begin outreach, particularly to the elderly and disabled, before the shutoffs begin,” Harrison wrote in the newsletter. “We are lobbying for more advance warning in the future.”

Contact Olivia González Britt at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @Oliviagbritt.