The city of Berkeley will enact an opt-out policy to switch all Berkeley businesses to a 100% renewable energy-sourced utility plan beginning in October.
The energy provider for the plan will be East Bay Community Energy, or EBCE, and the electricity will be wind and solar powered. The policy will represent a roughly 2.3% increase in rates per kilowatt-hour, according to an Aug. 16 citywide press release.
“With the cost of solar and wind energy production decreasing, the negligible increase in bills will likely be the same, if not cheaper than PG&E rates in the future,” said Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguín in an email. “Carbon emissions from electricity usage in Berkeley have plummeted over the past decade due to our focus on ditching fossil fuels and embracing wind and solar, and this latest action will bring us a step closer to net zero.”
EBCE is a nonprofit energy provider and offers two plans for businesses, according to the city press release. The first plan, Renewable 100, costs 0.75 cents more per kilowatt hour than PG&E’s standard rate, but is sourced from 100% solar and wind energy. The second plan, Bright Choice, costs 3% less than PG&E’s standard rate, but is sourced from 50% renewable sources.
The city’s resolution will move all businesses to Renewable 100 unless they opt out before the Sept. 22 deadline. According to Arreguín, the city has begun outreach to inform businesses about the switch.
“If you don’t do opt-in automatically no one will go to their electric bill and click on opt-in, so from the management’s perspective what the city of Berkeley did makes perfect sense,” said Ambrose Leung, the business development manager at Uji Time Dessert.
Leung explained that Uji Time Dessert supports the move because it represents what the community is “promoting for the whole world.” The increase in costs would not impact the business much financially, Leung added.
However, Leung said that outreach from the city needs to be improved as the business was not yet made aware of the switch. Alex Knox, executive director of the Telegraph Business Improvement District, said that he was informed about the city’s outreach, but expected it was still underway due to upcoming informational webinars conducted by the city. The next webinar will be held Sept. 13.
Berkeley City Councilmember Sophie Hahn stated that businesses would not have to take any action unless they wanted to specifically opt out of the plan and remain on Bright Choice. She added that the city council has also voted to move residential service to 100% renewable sources.
“As a world leader on climate change, it’s crucial that Berkeley sets a leadership example to accelerate the adoption of clean, renewable power,” Hahn said in an email. “Soon all of Berkeley will be consuming 100% renewable energy.”