Dan Kalb counts himself as an early supporter of community choice energy.
Kalb has represented District 1 (North Oakland) on the Oakland City Council since 2013, and was recently chosen by his colleagues to be the Council’s President Pro Tempore. He also serves as the new Chair of the Board of Directors for East Bay Community Energy (EBCE).
Dan is not new to the clean energy world. Before entering public service, Dan was the California Policy Director for the Union of Concerned Scientists from 2003 to 2012, working on climate change, renewable energy, air quality, green jobs, and clean transportation issues.
He cites passage of the 2011 state renewables portfolio standard (RPS), which required utilities to get to 33 percent renewables, as a key accomplishment. The goals were upped in 2018 to 100 percent “clean” power by 2045, with at least 60 percent from renewables.
“I felt that a public sector and community based electricity provider would do a better job to create a portfolio that is cleaner than what is required of an investor-owned utility,” he says. “EBCE and other CCAs will do more to meet and exceed the renewables requirements, and get us to 100 percent clean as quickly as possible.”
Kalb sees cleaning up the power supply as a necessary first step to cleaning up other sectors to meet greenhouse gas emission reduction goals.
“As the state and region moves forward to electrify a larger part of the transport and building sectors, it becomes all that much more important to clean the power sector,” he points out. “Those sectors will only be clean if we have clean electricity.”
Electrifying transportation and buildings also highlights the importance of EBCE’s commitment to local development, a key motivation for the existence of CCAs.
“EBCE made an explicit commitment to develop projects locally, in Alameda County and the East Bay,” Kalb says.
The Joint Powers Agreement and the adopted Local Development Business Plan, two foundations of EBCE, were developed through a year and a half process of community engagement, with elected officials, stakeholders, experts and advocates meeting to answer questions, debate the issues, and review studies.
“The end result was strongly supported by many clean power advocates in the region,” Kalb recalls. He is especially proud of the engagement with many labor union locals. “We were probably the first CCA to have union locals involved from the git-go.”
Kalb believes that the attention to creating local benefits are what sets CCAs apart from larger investor-owned utilities.
“We don’t want to be merely an electricity provider,” he argues. “That’s the core of what we do, but we should be doing and are doing much more than that. Especially to reduce emissions throughout our local economy.
He points to the recent contract for distributed solar and battery storage that will help replace an old and dirty jet-fuel peaker plant at Jack London Square. EBCE also is working with Sunrun to deploy solar+storage on low-income housing in West Oakland. While the systems will create benefits for the tenants, they will also be aggregated and managed by Sunrun, to provide services to the system as a whole.
“That has greenhouse gas emissions benefits but also local air pollution benefits for the people that live and work in the area,” Kalb says. “That area has been heavily impacted by air pollution, and now we’re taking one pollution source away.”
Kalb hopes projects like this, that combine climate action with local health benefits and local jobs, will help change attitudes in Sacramento.
“There was initially a lot of skepticism about CCAs among Sacramento policymakers and interests,” he recalls. “It’s taken a while for that to change, which is disappointing.
“Even though CCAs are here to stay, there are some who appear unwilling to work with us, and who may even work against us,” he says. “Some want to make it more difficult for CCAs to do our job, when in reality we can all make progress together.”
“CCAs are still the new kids on the block and we will overcome that. We’re just going to do good work and eventually people in Sacramento will recognize that,” added Kalb. “I see EBCE becoming a model for CCAs across the state and across the country. I’m proud to be the Chair and I want to thank our hard-working staff and our immediate past chair, Scott Haggerty, for their great work to get us off the ground. EBCE is already a success story, but we have a lot of good things yet to do.”