Berkeley urges residents to opt for 100 percent renewable electricity

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David Rodriguez/Senior Staff
Berkeley City Council voted to move Berkeley's streetlights and municipal buildings to a Renewable 100 plan, which is offered by East Bay Community Energy, or EBCE. The average cost of the plan is about 4 cents more than the basic Bright Choice plan, the basic electricity option provided by EBCE.

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A city of Berkeley press release urged Berkeley residents to opt in to a 100% renewable electricity plan, as the city recently did. 

After a commitment to reach 100% renewable energy by 2035 in 2018, last fall Berkeley City Council voted to move all of the city’s streetlights and municipal buildings to a 100% renewable electricity plan. This Renewable 100 plan, offered by the local joint power authority East Bay Community Energy, or EBCE, provides a mix of solar and wind energy at a slightly higher price than PG&E.

The press release, which was sent out Wednesday, encourages Berkeley residents to follow the city’s example by voluntarily choosing to switch to Renewable 100 from Bright Choice, the basic electricity option provided by EBCE, which consists of 60% eligible renewable power

“Switching to 100% renewable energy at home is one of the easiest ways all of us can help fight climate change,” the press release states. “You can change your service plan at any time, including opting out of East Bay Community Energy to purchase power directly from PG&E.”

The average cost for the Renewable 100 plan is $33.58 per month, about $4-5 more than the basic Bright Choice plan, according to Billi Romain, manager of the city of Berkeley Office of Energy and Sustainable Development.

According to Berkeley City Councilmember Kate Harrison, the city originally discussed automatically upgrading all Berkeley residents to the 100% renewable electricity plan with the choice of switching back to Bright Choice’s plan or PG&E’s plan. However, due to the increased financial burden on households caused by COVID-19 and worries about whether EBCE would be able to handle the additional electricity demand, the city opted not to upgrade all residents.

“My goal is to move everyone to 100% renewable energy,” Harrison said. “People don’t have the bandwidth to think about how they can save energy right now. This was not the year to do it. But we’re finally crawling out of COVID, and now we can go back to looking at our goals.”

The Office of Energy and Sustainable Development is currently working on an electrification strategy for the city’s existing buildings, which will look at how soon the city can equitably and fully transition out of using natural gas, according to Romain. She added that the strategy will emphasize equity guardrails such as accessible rebates and financing for lower-income households.

Nikita Chigullapally, the 100% Renewable Energy campaign coordinator for the campus chapter of CalPIRG, said she thought the city’s move to 100% renewable energy for municipal electricity was “great.” Chigullapally added, however, that automatically upgrading all residents to the Renewable 100 plan and giving them the opportunity to opt out would be better.

Providing funding and incentives for households to switch to 100% renewable energy would also be desirable as the city moves forward, Chigullapally said.

“I think Berkeley is really setting a precedent for other cities to follow,” Chigullapally said. “It’s a step forward, although there’s always more we could do.”

Contact Alexandra Feldman at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @a_p_feldman.

Correction(s):
A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that the average cost for the Renewable 100 plan is 33.58 cents per kilowatt hour, about 4 cents more than the basic Bright Choice plan. In fact, the average cost is $33.58 per month, about four to five dollars more than the basic Bright Choice plan.