October 11, 2012 - OP-ED
Public Power Is Good for Our Community
By Girish Balachandran, General Manager, Alameda Municipal Power
Around the country, more and more communities are taking a look at the investor-owned utilities that serve them and deciding if a publicly owned electric utility might better meet the community’s long term goals. But here in Alameda, that decision was made 125 years ago by residents who saw electricity as an essential public service.
Since 1887, Alameda Municipal Power (AMP) has offered low rates, local control and commitment, public accountability, and responsive customer service to the residents and businesses of our island city.
When the community owns its electric utility, it means the utility exists to serve you, not a shareholder in some distant city or state. That means there are no dividends being paid to shareholders. Rather, the revenue from electricity sales in Alameda goes toward operation of the system and then to improving community services and quality of life for residents. In fact, AMP has contributed since its founding more than $104,000,000 to the City of Alameda’s General Fund.
When the community owns its electric utility, local dollars stay at home. AMP makes purchases from local businesses, and the salaries earned by the employees who live on the island are spent in the community for housing, groceries and other services. And since AMP’s electric prices are lower, consumers can spend more money on other goods and services. Indeed, AMP’s lower rates preserve more than $10 million per year in the local economy.
When the community owns its electric utility, it means the community can set the standard for environmental stewardship. Decades ago, you, Alameda’s residents, decided you wanted your utility to be green. Since then, AMP has become a leader in the promotion of clean, sustainable and renewable power, making our city the lowest greenhouse-gas-emitting community in Alameda County and one of the lowest in the state.
And most importantly, when the community owns its electric utility, it means you, the residents and businesses of our community, have a voice in everything we do. AMP’s meetings are always open to the public and subject to the Sunshine Act. Questions are answered and decisions are made in public. Likewise, since AMP is located right here on the island and a good number of our employees are Alameda residents, you always have the ability to quickly connect with us in person.
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 Oct. 7-13, along with more than 2,000 other utilities that provide electricity on a not-for-profit basis to 46 million Americans. While the benefits of public power may not always be at the forefront of your mind, it’s worth taking a moment to remember why over a century ago Alamedans believed in building a community-owned electric utility.