Opinion: Who wants Oakland to control our electric power?


Bruce Jensen and Tom Kelly probably regret that their first stop in promoting a county-run electric system to compete with PG&E was at last week's Pleasanton City Council meeting.

They left empty-handed with Mayor Jerry Thorne and council members criticizing almost everything about the plan that would turn over control of electric rates and usage to environmental thought leaders in Oakland, Hayward and Fremont. These three larger cities would have more than a 50% control over the joint powers agreement (JPA) that would run the new power agency.

Called the Community Choice Aggregation (CCA) program, it is designed to enable local jurisdictions like Pleasanton to meet the state's requirement that 33% of all electric power used in a community come from renewable clean energy sources by 2020 and 50% by 2030. The CCA program would procure electricity services with "cleaner and more renewable sources of power" than currently available from PG&E.

Established by the State Assembly in 2002, California has two active CCA programs in Marin and Sonoma counties and in downstate Lancaster. The city/county of San Francisco and San Mateo County are about to launch the program, and several other jurisdictions, including Santa Clara, Santa Cruz, Monterey and San Luis Obispo counties are exploring program possibilities.

But in talking up the program, Jensen and Kelly ran into a barrage of questions and unfavorable comments from the council, supported by a Pleasanton-backed independent study of the program by ESA Community Development.

The study showed risks for residents here to become part of a county-run energy agency, and not just because we are among the 10 of 13 cities in Alameda County that would be bound by what the three larger cities would determine with their majority rule of the JPA. ESA found shortcomings in the CCA's rate forecasting and its assessment of hydro-power availability and costs as well as the high costs of other renewables that would fuel the move away from PG&E's oil and natural gas sources of electricity.

In fact, Kelly, a consultant with the Sequoia Foundation, admitted under questioning by Councilman Arne Olson that the CCA would likely rely solely on wind and solar for the energy that will power Pleasanton customers when the system is fully established. It would not use power from the Diablo Canyon nuclear plant and probably could not find enough hydra-power to meet its needs. That would fit in with his Sequoia Foundation's mission to "hasten the transformation of the power supply to renewable energy sources."

The environmental conservation organization, based in La Jolla, is dedicated to research, public policy interventions and the application of solutions that address the environmental, occupational, demographic and genetic factors that adversely or beneficially affect human health.

Councilman Jerry Pentin noted that CCA plans to be generating 1,000 megawatts of electricity from renewable sources within 14 years, but called that figure misleading. He said there's no open space available to produce that much electricity from solar nor is it likely windmills can ever generate enough power to meet the demands of the Tri-Valley.

Councilwoman Kathy Narum pointed out that we rely on air conditioners during the hot summer months, probably much more than other cities that would be part of a JPA. She's concerned that an Oakland-run consortium would deprive electric customers here of an adequate supply when needed.

Other objections from the council included a provision in the proposed JPA that construction projects would require union labor and that PG&E is well underway to meet the state's clean energy plan and possibly at less costs.

Responding to Alameda County's representative Jensen's request that the Pleasanton council pass an ordinance by early December to join the JPA, the council indicated that won't happen.

"I'm sorry, but I think you have the cart before the horse," Olson said. "Creating a JPA should come after the response to our peer review studies of your plan."

Instead of scheduling a future meeting to consider the JPA bid, Pleasanton city staff plans to make its own independent study of the county's alternative energy plan available to other cities in Alameda County before Jensen and Kelly make more presentations about Community Choice.

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4 people like this
Posted by Tom Kelly
a resident of another community
on Oct 14, 2016 at 1:03 pm

No regrets from me (Tom Kelly, Sequoia Foundation) as a result of our presentation to the Pleasanton City Council about the County's efforts to establish a Community Choice Energy program. The questions that were asked were reasonable and Bruce and I did our best to provide adequate answers. Until that evening we were unaware of the ESA review of the Tech Study so we were not prepared to respond to the issues that the review raised. We have now received a copy of the ESA review and the County and its consultant have prepared a response that will be shared with the City Council in the next few days. The County's Tech Study consultant found nothing in the review that raised any red flags.

Each city in the County is being asked if it wishes to join the new Community Choice program. It would be great if Pleasanton decided to be a "founding" member, but it is under no obligation to join. Several cities in Marin and Sonoma Counties did not join their respective programs immediately, however, those cities that waited eventually joined.

One important clarification - I don't recall Councilwoman Narum expressing a concern that Pleasanton electricity customers would not have an adequate supply of electricity. Nevertheless, I would like to point out that each electricity provider - whether PG&E or a Community Choice program - must demonstrate to the California Public Utilities Commission that it has contracted for adequate supplies of electricity to meet forecasted electricity demand. No customer of a Community Choice program has to worry about not having enough electricity. It will be there every time you turn on the lights.

The website for East Bay Community Energy has just been launched ( The Community Choice program is explained there and should answer most questions that residents and businesses may have.

16 people like this
Posted by Michael Austin
a resident of Pleasanton Meadows
on Oct 14, 2016 at 1:34 pm

Michael Austin is a registered user.

Tom Kelly,

You reek of ENRON born again.
You are like the Alameda county democratic party.
You lack knowledge of what it is you do.

If you get your way my electric bill and everyone else's
electric bill will double.

Please go away and stay away.

6 people like this
Posted by Matt Sullivan
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Oct 14, 2016 at 3:07 pm

This is really too bad. Having Pleasanton join the CCA would provide cost and environmental benefits to the community as well as to reduce the impacts of climate change. Pleasanton was actually one of several Bay Area cities to participate in a pilot CCA study paid for by the California Energy Commission back in the early 2000's. I advocated for this when I was on the Council, but PG&E spent tens of thousands in campaign contributions, advertising, and free services (paid for by you and me, the ratepayers) to dissuade this - as they have done in dozens of other communities.

However, I'm not surprised that this Council was so hostile to this. The people that run this town (Chamber of Commerce and their puppets on the city council) are still living in the 1950's before anyone heard of climate change. Extremely short sighted and unfortunate for the survival of ours and innumerable other species.

But they will deliver us a Costco so we can have those subsidized buck fifty hot dogs!

2 people like this
Posted by ScrameNeen
a resident of Avila
on Oct 16, 2016 at 3:56 pm

ScrameNeen is a registered user.

You should understand more of what you're getting with a CCA before advocating to do it. Where do you think all power comes from? The grid. Why would you pay more? To buy carbon credits to offset what's on the grid. So- you're paying more for dirty power! Totally ridiculous. We should be spending money on infrastructure upgrades to eventually support incorporation of more renewables into the grid, and on protecting our existing sources of emissions-free electricity, particularly Diablo Canyon.

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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