OP-ED - June 15, 2015

Who Owns Alameda's Energy Future? You Do.

By Glenn Steiger

Nearly a year ago, I took the helm at Alameda Municipal Power (AMP), and since then I’ve grown to admire so much about this electric utility and the island community that’s been supporting it since 1887. There’s a reason why this publicly owned utility is ranked top in the state for reliability, safety and customer service with a renewable energy portfolio that’s one of the strongest in the country—and that reason is you, Alameda’s residents and businesses.

I’ve worked in the electric industry all over the country, and I’ve never seen a community that cares this much about its homegrown electric utility. I’ve been surprised and delighted when I talk to residents and business owners and hear their interest in the issues this industry is facing, issues such as climate change, increased regulation, an aging electric grid, the growing demand for real-time data, and the rise of and integration into the grid of electric vehicles, solar, wind turbines and battery storage.

And while I’m always happy to talk shop with anyone, the issues the electric industry is facing are real—and they are issues that affect all Alamedans who pay an electric bill.

That’s why AMP will host a series of town hall meetings over the next six months to discuss the future of energy in Alameda. We want to engage the entire community in a dialogue, so together we can develop innovative solutions to energy challenges and intelligently and fairly pursue opportunities on the horizon.

At 6 p.m. on June 24 at the Alameda Library, we’ll kick off the first town hall meeting with a discussion on customer solar and the issues and opportunities around it.

Solar has come a long way since its inception. In the last decade, special rebates and other financial incentives from utilities and government enabled the technology to quickly mature. Now, utilities around the country— including AMP—are faced with the challenge of how to appropriately and equitably integrate solar into the electric grid.

There is no doubt that solar is a wonderful source of renewable power with many benefits. And people have a right to generate power for their own on- site use—that’s not going to change. The real issue is defining what role AMP should have in taking power from solar customers who have excess generation and how much to credit that excess.

At first glance, this may seem like an issue of interest only to solar customers, but it’s not. All Alamedans are affected by these policies, and it’s important for all segments of our customer base to provide us with feedback as we move ahead with designing new solar rates, expanding or shrinking customer-funded solar subsidies, and ensuring that solar is appropriately positioned with Alameda’s energy mix.

I know that by working together, we can find solutions that will benefit Alamedans for generations to come. I hope you’ll join us on June 24 and at our other town hall meetings later this fall.

- Glenn Steiger is general manager of Alameda Municipal Power.

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