Reducing Alameda’s Carbon Footprint

In the 1990s, Alameda Municipal Power (AMP) became one of the first utilities to invest heavily in renewable power. Since then, we been justifiably proud of our "Greenest Little Utility" reputation. But in today’s world, with our growing awareness of climate change and our understanding of the impact of our carbon footprint, it’s not enough for a utility to rely on renewable power alone.

It takes a commitment to help all of us minimize the amount of energy we use in the first place because that’s the fastest, most cost-effective way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. It takes offering an array of options that allow residential and business customers to choose how they want to be green. And it takes working with other cities, utilities and community groups to fight climate change.

Due to the utility’s early investment in renewable energy, AMP now has the opportunity to do more to decrease our community’s energy use, increase our efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and help our neighbors do the same — without raising rates.

In 2011, California adopted a renewables portfolio standard that requires electric utilities to purchase a growing percentage of their electricity from qualified renewable sources by 2020. Because AMP’s renewable portfolio is so strong, our utility not only exceeds this standard, but is in a position to sell — on a short-term basis — some of its renewable energy to other utilities struggling to achieve compliance.

At the direction of the Public Utilities Board, AMP is selling a portion of its renewable energy through 2016 to the California Department of Water Resources. This will ease the transition to renewable energy for the department and give it time to plan its investments in renewable energy in the future.

But Alameda will benefit even more when the proceeds, as stipulated by AMP’s board of directors, are used to fund projects that will reduce greenhouse gas emissions associated with electric services in our own city. Approved projects for the coming fiscal year include converting the majority of our streetlights to light-emitting diodes (LED), distributing free LED light bulbs to every residential customer and a new lighting retrofit program for businesses. Each of these projects will reduce Alameda’s carbon footprint, reduce the amount of energy we use and save money for all of us.

I invite you to help us take these next steps to becoming a greener utility and community. Participate in our process of developing these new programs. Share your ideas on how we can reduce greenhouse gases. And commit to taking personal actions that reduce your own carbon footprint.

Here in Alameda, we are truly fortunate to have a 127-year-old electric utility that continually strives to be the greenest little utility in America. For AMP, that means making choices that help protect the environment and maintain resources for future generations. By committing to green practices locally and beyond, AMP is doing its part to ensure that our community and our local utility not only survive, but thrive for decades to come.

Madeline Deaton is president of the Public Utilities Board.