OP ED -- October 3, 2013

Public Power: It’s Still a Good Value for Alameda

by Girish Balachandran, AMP general manager
 
We rely on electricity nearly every minute of the day, to light our homes, power our computers, TVs, and appliances, and fuel our cars. In fact, it’s hard to think of a product, service or process that doesn’t use electricity. And it’s a good value. Nationwide, electricity still accounts for less than 3 percent of annual household expenditures—a percentage that hasn’t changed in over 25 years. But beyond paying your bill and cursing the rare outage, how much do you really know about the local electric utility that serves our island community?

Did you know that you are a stakeholder in one of the oldest community-owned electric utilities west of the Mississippi River? Alameda Municipal Power (AMP), your local electric utility, was created 127 years ago by residents who saw electricity as an essential public service, just like community schools, parks, hospitals, and police and fire departments. And since 1887, AMP has offered low rates, local control and commitment, public accountability, and responsive customer service to the residents and businesses of our island city.

Did you know that AMP doesn’t operate to make a profit for distant shareholders? You, our customers, are our shareholders. The revenue from electricity sales in Alameda goes toward operation of the system and then to improving community services and quality of life for all residents. In fact, AMP has contributed since its founding more than $107,000,000 to the City of Alameda’s general fund.

Did you know that AMP also contributes to the economic vitality of Alameda? AMP makes purchases from local businesses, and the salaries earned by our employees who live on the island are spent in the community for housing, groceries, and other services. And, since AMP’s electric prices are around 20 percent lower than neighboring cities like Oakland and Berkeley, you too can spend more money on other goods and services. AMP’s lower rates preserve nearly $10 million every year in the local economy.

Did you know that AMP is overseen by your friends and neighbors who serve on the Public Utilities Board? The Board serves as both a corporate board and a regulatory authority for AMP, and their meetings are always open to the public and subject to the Sunshine Act. Questions are answered and decisions are made in public, not behind the closed doors of some faraway board room.

Every year, AMP takes part in a week-long national celebration of public power’s hometown advantages. This year, we’re celebrating Public Power Week from October 6-12 along with more than 2,000 other utilities that provide electricity on a not-for-profit basis to 46 million Americans.

You can take for granted that AMP will continue to provide low-cost, reliable electricity and deliver it to you instantaneously, day or night. But I hope we can also take for granted your support of public power as an American tradition that works for our island community.

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