Eco-angst has been defined as a dread of the effects of climate change–a feeling many of us share when reading about yet another piece of evidence that climate change is already having a serious impact somewhere, including close to home. Eco-therapy offers the hope of diminishing this sense of overwhelm. It’s an alternative to denial. What I find therapeutic is to take action–to do something that makes a dint.
Stepping Out of Angst
First, I started small–within my own walls. When I moved to Rossmoor two years ago, while I had the asbestos removed from my ceilings, I had fans installed. As a result, I’ve never needed my air conditioner and they’ve paid for themselves. When my water heater died, I replaced it with an energy-efficient one.
I also found some eco-therapy beyond my own walls. I joined Sustainable Rossmoor; then it was still called Solar Powered Rossmoor. It’s inspiring that several different committees are tackling projects and addressing very real things we can do in our neighborhood. Some are amazingly simple. Most save money.
And then I learned of a truly exciting eco-therapy: community choice energy (CCE). It’s easy. It markedly reduces greenhouse emissions and it saves money. Also called community choice aggregation, CCA is the choice a county has to form a nonprofit agency to provide more renewable energy (50 to 100 percent) than is provided by Pacific Gas and Electric (28 percent). A CCE is both a competitor and a partner with PG&E. The CCE buys local clean energy (usually solar or wind) and supplies it to the public grid; PG&E transmits it as usual. It’s a choice a user can decline. Nothing goes on your roof. You don’t buy anything.
Every other county in the Bay Area has already started planning a CCE. Marin and Sonoma have operational CCEs; between 80 and 90 percent of their residents belong. It’s sort of an energy club–but regulated. CCEs operate under all the same Public Utilities Commission and state regulations as any utility. Finally, this October our Contra Costa Board of Supervisors took its first tentative step. Three Contra Costa cities couldn’t wait; Richmond, El Cerrito and San Pablo have already joined Marin Clean Energy (MCE).
MCE was the first CCE in California – it began in 2010. Since then, it’s saved over 60,000 tons of carbon pollution and last year it saved its customers over $6 million. Walnut Creek must make a choice soon. It has started its application to MCE while at the same time it’s keeping an eye on Contra Costa County’s action. You can thank 12 members of Sustainable Rossmoor for some of this local progress; they spoke in support of CCE at a Walnut Creek City Council meeting a year ago. All the other six Bay Area county CCEs will soon want to buy huge amounts of locally produced renewable energy. CCEs emphasize buying their energy locally, which is more efficient scientifically, but also creates more local jobs and provides a continuous environmentally sustainable revenue stream. If Contra Costa County forms its own CCE, we can more quickly scale up to meet not only our own clean energy demands, but also sell to our neighbors. Contra Costa has more sun, more wind, more unemployed or underemployed workers and more buildable brownfield sites than the other counties. Brownfields are areas contaminated by low-level hazardous waste that prevents habitation. Examples are many hundreds of acres along the refinery corridor by the Delta and also the Concord Naval Weapons Depot. CCE can change an eyesore into a taxpaying revenue producer.
A CCE Enthusiast
At the same time that CCEs speed the transition to a cleaner, more efficient energy supply, they also address social justice by providing better rates than PG&E does to low-income households, hiring veterans and disabled workers and developing green job training centers. MCE offers better reimbursement to owners of rooftop solar than PG&E, subsidizes electric vehicle charging stations and is building a 10.5 megawatt solar array on a brownfield site in Richmond using 80 percent local union labor. Lastly, a CCE doesn’t increase the size of government– it’s revenue-based–not taxpayer subsidized and is governed by a joint powers authority–a nonprofit agency with local representation. It has no shareholders, unlike PG&E.
Maybe you can understand why I’ve become a CCE enthusiast. To join me and others helping to build support for a CCE here, become a volunteer in the Contra Costa Clean Energy Alliance. It’s free. For information about CCE, check out the DVD from the Rossmoor Library that Channel 28 recorded of a presentation made here: “CCA: Greener Energy.” Or, a very good short three-minute video. Good websites are: mcecleanenergy.org or leanenergyus.org.
This article first appeared in the December 16, 2015 Earth Matters column of the Rossmoor News, authored by Carol Weed.