AMP Leads the Way in Clean Power

 

Just last month, Gov. Jerry Brown signed legislation requiring the state to obtain 60 percent of its electricity from clean sources — such as wind, solar and hydropower — by 2030 and 100 percent by 2045. While I applaud California for taking this momentous step in response to climate change, I also congratulate you, Alameda’s residents and businesses, for taking this same great step long ago.

It all began in 1887, when Alameda Municipal Power (AMP) was created by a group of concerned residents who saw electricity as an essential public service, just like community schools, parks, hospitals and police and fire departments. During the 20th century, when little local utilities across the country were being bought up by big corporations, Alamedans remained committed to local control and local decision-making at their electric utility.

That same commitment to local control enabled Alameda to set the standard for environmental stewardship in the 1980s. Residents and businesses wanted their power to come from renewable resources, so AMP added geothermal to its energy supply, followed by wind, landfill gas, hydropower and solar over the next several decades. This earned AMP the moniker of “greenest little utility.”

AMP did this while keeping rates low. In fact, rates average 17 percent below those in neighboring communities. This means almost $11 million per year stays in our customers’ pockets compared to Pacific Gas & Electric Co.’s customers. And because AMP is community owned, rates go toward operation of the electric system and to improving public services through annual transfers of more than $5 million to the city’s General Fund. This means that local dollars stay here at home. Revenue from electricity sales in Alameda goes to the community, not a shareholder in some distant city or state.

AMP did this without sacrificing electric reliability. In public power communities like Alameda, customers are likely to be without power for an average of 59 minutes per year, compared to customers of investor-owned utilities that may lose power for an average of 133 minutes a year — provided there are no major adverse effects. Knowing our community and its needs helps keep homes, businesses and public places powered year-round.

And AMP did this because it is a part of the community. Decisions about AMP’s policies are made by Alameda residents who volunteer to serve on the city’s Public Utilities Board. AMP customers have a direct voice in utility decisions and policymaking. Plus, our connection to the community means that Alamedan’s can expect to receive excellent customer service when questions arise about your electric service.

Alameda’s focus on clean energy and local control in the past puts us in the strong position we are in today. I am excited to announce that AMP’s long commitment to clean power will result in a 100 percent carbon-neutral energy supply for Alameda starting in 2020 — way ahead of California’s new clean energy rules. And the best part is our customers don’t have to do anything to get to 100 percent clean energy, the resources are already owned or contracted for.

This year, AMP is celebrating Public Power Week from Oct. 7 to 13, along with more than 2,000 other utilities that provide electricity on a not-for-profit basis to 49 million Americans. I have worked in a number of communities over my 20 years in the utility industry. It is clear that Alameda’s rich history of community-owned power truly stands out. AMP not only works for Alameda, it’s been a cornerstone of our community since 1887.

Nicolas Procos is Alameda Municipal Power’s general manager.