Stockton takes a big step toward local clean energy

On Tuesday, Sept. 15, Stockton’s City Council unanimously approved a resolution selecting a consultant to complete a feasibility study on launching a Community Choice Energy program in Stockton.

Enabled by state law, the program would allow the City to procure power on behalf of residents, businesses, and municipal accounts while still receiving transmission and distribution service from Pacific Gas & Electric Co., the existing utility provider.

Benefits of establishing a not-for-profit Community Choice agency, or CCA include consumer choice, local control, and enhanced public participation. Potential benefits include offering energy programs that meet community needs, lowering electricity rates, accelerating the transition to renewable energy sources and creating local jobs in sustainable energy development.

MRW & Associates, LLC was awarded the bid on a $92,750 contract to complete the feasibility study, which will assess how achievable these benefits are for the City. The study will also explore options for governance structure, specifically to address whether it would be most feasible for the City to establish a CCA on its own, or in a joint powers authority format with another municipality, such as San Joaquin County.

Still from Stockton City Council meeting

Beyond offering some rate relief, buying from cleaner sources and creating over 4,200 jobs, the 21 existing CCAs in the state have reinvested their reserve funds into several innovative community-tailored programs. They’ve helped their customers cover the costs of electric vehicles and charging infrastructure; solar and battery storage systems; and electrifying buildings and public transportation, to name a few.

These not-for-profit locally based agencies have also collectively donated millions of dollars to COVID relief efforts in their service areas, with grants to community-based organizations and local governments, in addition to rate relief for power generation.

Energy resilience has also been a huge priority for many CCAs – in just 10 years, they’ve supported the installation of more than 3,600 megawatts (MW) of new renewable energy facilities and 240 MW of battery-backup storage systems to help prevent the impacts of mass power outages.

Vice Mayor Dan Wright has been championing Stockton exploring potential benefits of a CCA since 2016 when The Climate Center first reached out to him.

“The reason I was initially interested in the idea was our withdrawal from the Paris Climate Accords,” Wright said in the meeting. “It’s that idea of moving toward a greener economy and zero carbon emissions that gets me behind this.”

Many community members submitted comments in support that were read into the record by the board clerk.

“We fully support this resolution,” wrote Little Manila Rising Executive Director Dillon Delvo. “Ultimately, we believe as shown in other communities, that establishing a Community Choice Energy program would provide our city with much-needed resources to help tackle the environmental challenges all of our Stockton families face together.”

Jonathan Pruitt, Environmental Justice Project coordinator at Catholic Charities Dioceses of Stockton spoke of the benefits of a CCA, including accountability and transparency in energy matters, as well as potential for procuring from greener sources and reinvesting in the community through local energy projects.

Margo Praus, Chair of the Delta-Sierra Group of the Sierra Club and other local groups praised CCA as one way to address wildfires, air pollution, extreme heat and other impacts of the climate crisis.

“This is an emergency,” Praus wrote. “Our efforts to curtail GHG emissions urgently need to be stepped up. CCAs give people a choice in where their energy comes from. We hope you choose a consultant, and we await the results with bated and masked breath.”

Stockton’s feasibility study should take about three to four months to complete, after which the City Council will be presented with the findings and faced with a decision to move forward.

We hope that the study will yield positive results, and that the City will continue down a path toward developing an agency that could reinvest in the community for years to come.

How to drive fossil fuels out of the US economy, quickly

by David Roberts, Vox


  • A new initiative, Rewiring America founded by Saul Griffith, asserts that rapid decarbonization through electrification would create 15 million to 20 million jobs in the next decade and that it’s possible to eliminate 70 percent to 80 percent of US carbon emissions by 2035 through rapid deployment of existing electrification technologies, with little-to-no carbon capture and sequestration. 
  • Rewiring America: 
    • Asserts that successfully addressing the climate crisis will require a mobilization similar to the economic mobilization that took place in the U.S. during World War II
    • Has produced a dashboard that collects all data on how energy is used in the U.S. It tracks where every unit of energy enters the economy and how it is used as it passes through
    • Asserts that no new technology advancements are needed and no great sacrifice will be required to decarbonize the economy
    • Relies on five well-established technologies: wind power, solar power, electric vehicles, electric heat pumps, and energy storage
    • Asserts that market mechanisms will not work in time to achieve goals and that a command and control approach is what it will take.

Image from Rewiring America/Saul Griffith, sourced on Vox


Fossil fuel divestment and the transition to 100% clean energy is critical to achieving The Climate Center’s goals under the Climate-Safe California Platform.

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Let’s secure equitable access to resilient clean energy

The Climate Center’s Community Energy Resilience Policy Summit will address equitable approaches to clean energy resilience programs.  August 5, 2020, 9 AM – 12 PM.

As awareness of systemic poverty and racism grows, government policies and programs beyond police force budgets and protocols are also getting attention. The media is shining light on toxic oil and gas infrastructure – from freeways to oil refineries – that are often sited in lower-income communities, close to homes, schools, and hospitals and polluted air that leads to significantly lower life expectancy and higher rates of asthma, cancer, and other diseases

In California, programs designed to promote clean energy are more likely to benefit the rich than the poor who need them most. With the approaching power shut-offs that California is expecting this fire season, this inequity will continue to grow. While all communities are disrupted and suffer from power outages, lower-income households are likely to suffer most. This is because they have fewer resources to rely on in the event of an emergency, and less ability to absorb financial losses from outages. While wealthier Californians may buy back-up batteries or generators, less affluent residents can’t afford them. These same residents often suffer higher rates of respiratory illness due to pollution and are especially vulnerable when fossil backup generators are widely used during a power shut-off. And food security is an especially acute problem for low-income households that rely on school meal programs that are not accessible during power shut-offs because of the lack of refrigeration. 

A number of studies have highlighted inequities created by clean energy incentive programs. Perhaps the most striking findings come from Eric Fournier at UCLA’s Institute of the Environment and Sustainability, with a report showing how inequities in incentives for things like rooftop solar and electric vehicles place a larger burden of cost on the least affluent, and reward wealthier people. This is especially unfortunate given that lower-income communities are using less energy than wealthier communities and are less responsible for climate change.

While there’s a lot of work yet to be done, over the past decade Environmental Justice advocates have had remarkable successes in crafting new state policies and programs to provide more equity for lower-income communities. This trend and more will be discussed at The Climate Center’s Community Energy Resilience Policy Summit on August 5th. Panelists will outline how we can meet the challenges of enhancing clean energy resilience while avoiding exacerbating inequalities that these incentive programs often create.

The Summit will feature an opening keynote address by Carmen Ramirez, Mayor Pro Tem of Oxnard, followed by a panel providing an overview of what the state is doing now for clean energy resilience featuring Janea Scott, Vice-Chair of the California Energy Commission; Genevieve Shiroma, Commissioner of the California Public Utilities Commission; Eric Lamoureaux from the California Office of Emergency Services, and California Senator Henry Stern. 

A subsequent panel will provide a labor perspective, including Mark Kyle, former Chief of Staff of the California Federal of Labor, Jennifer Kropke, Director of Environmental and Workforce Engagement, IBEW, Local Union 11 & National Electrical Contractors Association Los Angeles County; and Vivian Price, researcher for the Labor Network for Sustainability and CSU Dominguez Hills Professor specializing in labor and climate change.

An Environmental Justice panel will be moderated by Janina Turner, a lead organizer in Sonoma County’s Sunrise Movement. Panelists include Mari Rose Taruc, movement organizer for environmental justice & climate solutions at Reclaim Our Power; Gabriela Orantes, a Just Recovery Fellow at the North Bay Organizing Project; and Nayamin Martinez, Executive Director of the Central California Environmental Justice Network.

The final panel, highlighting energy resilience programs of Community Choice agencies, will be moderated by Carolyn Glanton, Programs Manager at Sonoma Clean Power. Panelists include Sage Lang, Energy Program Coordinator/Analyst for Central Coast Community Energy; Stephanie Chen, Senior Policy Counsel at MCE; and JP Ross, Senior Director of Local Development, Electrification and Innovation for East Bay Community Energy. 

As California turns its attention to building energy resilience in the face of more power outages, policymakers must prioritize clean energy resilience in California’s lower-income communities. This will ensure that the Californians who are the least responsible for climate change are not suffering its worst consequences.

Register for the August 5th policy summit HERE.

Congressional climate action plan

Congressional Climate Crisis Action Plan would decarbonize U.S., add $8 trillion in benefits by 2050

by Megan Mahajan, Forbes


  • The U.S. House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis has released their climate policy report titled Solving the Climate Crisis: The Congressional Action Plan for a Clean Energy Economy and a Healthy, Resilient and Just America 
  • Climate policy firm Energy Innovation modeled a subset of the Select Committee’s recommendations using a simulator and found it will hit net zero carbon dioxide emissions before 2050 and slash net greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions 88% from 2010 levels by 2050
  • This policy could prevent 62,000 premature deaths annually from pollution, while generating nearly $8 trillion in cumulative monetized health and climate benefits by 2050
  • Under this model, the electricity sector could reach 90% clean electricity by 2035 and 100% clean energy by 2040
  • Electrifying buildings with clean energy can deliver much-needed emissions reductions within that sector
  • 100% zero-emission vehicle sales for light-duty vehicles by 2035 and for heavy-duty vehicles by 2040 would help the transportation sector meet 2050 net-zero targets
  • More than 70% of voters support legislation targeting a 100% clean economy according to new polling

The Climate Center’s Climate-Safe California Platform advocates for a formal California State commitment by 2022 to 80% below 1990 levels of greenhouse gas emissions and net negative emissions by 2030 for a climate-safe future.

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COVID-19 will not slow the climate crisis. Only sound policy can.

From Science Daily


Energy and climate policy researchers in Switzerland and Germany support policies allowing a clean energy transition guide the COVID-19 economic response.

  • The researchers suggest investing in solutions that would advance Paris Agreement climate goals and dismantle systems that hurt global emissions goals
  • Though there are fewer emissions due to shelter in place mandates, it does not mean any significant reductions in climate change impacts in the long term
  • By investing in the clean energy transition, the world could advance structural changes that would decarbonize the energy sector
  • Tobias S. Schmidt of ETH Zurich notes that previous economic recessions resulted in higher emissions once the economy stabilizes:

“It is essential that we not repeat the mistakes of the post-financial crisis bailouts, which often led to massive increases in CO2 emissions,” 

  • Future policy research should develop “shock-proof” policies that can withstand other future disasters 

Fossil fuel divestment and the transition to 100% clean energy is critical to achieving The Climate Center’s goals under the Climate-Safe California Platform.

Read more:


A clean, green, and just economic recovery

Take action today for a clean, green, and just economic recovery in California.

On April 28, The Climate Center and many of its partners sent a letter to the California legislature asking them to use federal stimulus funds to support proven programs that improve health and resilience, and create jobs for a climate-safe future.

We asked that they secure ongoing revenue streams to increase the impact and longevity of those dollars. And we recommended using bonds to help power California’s recovery.

Despite the terrible toll, COVID-19 is presenting a unique opportunity to transform our economy into a healthy, equitable, and resilient one. The California legislature can funnel stimulus dollars to reverse some of the damage already done by the pandemic, including 100,000 clean energy jobs lost in March alone.

Crucial investments we need now include accelerating the equitable phase-out of fossil fuel development, production, and use by replacing it with clean energy, increasing sequestration through healthy soils initiatives on agricultural and working lands, and investing in community resilience measures including community energy resilience to help us weather unavoidable climate impacts.

These investments create a pathway to a resilient economic recovery for California with a secure transition for everyone.

While the world appears to be at a standstill, emissions are still rising and the climate crisis means that we will likely face multiple disasters at the same time going forward.

The impacts of climate change will far outweigh those of COVID-19 and could abruptly collapse whole ecosystems, starting with tropical oceans in the next ten years. While the economic impacts from the pandemic are significant, extreme weather events alone are predicted to cost around $8 trillion globally per year by 2050 with untold direct and indirect human health impacts.

We have the chance right now to address the COVID-19 health crisis, the climate crisis, and the economic crisis by supporting a bold suite of policies to transition us to a vibrant, healthy, and climate-safe future for all.

Let’s ensure a clean, green, and just economic recovery. Take action today here. Together we can do it!

Endorse our Climate-Safe California campaign and support The Climate Center’s bold efforts today!

Could coronavirus forever alter the fossil fuel era?

By Justin Guay, Medium


The current pandemic could be an opportunity for the US to eliminate our use of fossil fuel dependency and transition into a clean energy economy

  • The US fracking industry is in a tricky place – facing negative pricing and less demand, indicating that the industry wasn’t viable to begin with and signals its potential downfall once the pandemic is over 
    • Even so, the infrastructure such as oil wells or coal mines would likely remain if these companies go bankrupt
  •  Quantitative Easing (QE) programs from banks have the potential to allow “stealth bailouts” to specific industries by issuing or purchasing debt
    • BlackRock, the world’s largest asset manager, recently announced they would focus on green investments focused on decarbonization. If BlackRock keeps their word then this could be an important push for the renewable energy sector
  • Governments and banks should mitigate the end of the fossil fuel industry by managing their steady decline and promote more Paris Agreement standards 
  • The Obama-era stimulus package helped boost the modern American solar industry. The US has another unique opportunity to expanding renewable, clean energy due to the current pandemic and the resulting stimulus packages

Fossil fuel divestment and the transition to 100% clean electricity a major step towards achieving the Climate Center’s Climate-Safe California Platform.

Read more:


Due to the COVID-19 disruption, the legislature has gone into recess until April 13 at the earliest. While the legislature is on recess, The Climate Center continues to analyze the bills that were introduced in February, and is in the process of determining positions on many of them. Below are several, but not all, of the key bills we are tracking. For a complete list of the 112 bills we are currently tracking in 2020, click HERE. Our next update will be published here on April 9. Please send updates, suggestions, corrections to


Assembly Bills

AB 345 (Muratsuchi) SUPPORT – This bill will, if enacted, establish regulations to protect public health and safety near oil and gas extraction facilities,  including a minimum setback distance between oil and gas activities and sensitive receptors such as schools, childcare facilities, playgrounds, residences, hospitals, and health clinics. See The Climate Center’s Letter of Support. STATUS: In the Senate. Read first time. Sent to the Senate Rules Committee for assignment to a policy committee.


AB 1839 (Bonta) WATCH – The “Green New Deal” bill. Introduced on January 6, this bill would create the California Green New Deal Council with a specified membership appointed by the Governor. The bill would require the California Green New Deal Council to submit a specified report to the Legislature no later than January 1, 2022. So far the plan is scant on specifics including how goals will be met or how much the State will pay to meet those goals. STATUS: Introduced in January 6. No committee assignment yet. The bill has not been scheduled for a hearing.  The Climate Center is still assessing the bill and has not yet taken a position.

AB 1847 (Levine) WATCH – This bill would authorize the CPUC (contingent on the Commission finding that an electrical corporation is not complying with State law, rules, or regulations) to appoint a public administrator to the electrical corporation for a period not to exceed 180 days. The bill would vest the public administrator with oversight authority over the electrical corporation’s activities that impact public safety. See the bill author’s factsheet. STATUS: In the Assembly Utilities & Energy Committee. No hearing date set.

AB 2145 (Ting) WATCH – This bill would state the intent of the legislature to enact legislation to reform the electric vehicle charging infrastructure approval process employed by the CPUC to help ensure that by 2030 California will safely install enough EV charging ports to meet the demand through public and private investment.


AB 2689 (Kalra) Likely Support. – This bill updates Investor-Owned Utility (IOU) confidentiality provisions to allow a broader range of market experts to participate in complex IOU cost recovery proceedings and supports California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) oversight to protect customers from unreasonable or unjustified IOU rate increases. California IOU electric generation rates have increased 49% since 2013. Between 2008 and 2018, IOU customer rates doubled from $29.3 billion to $59.3 billion per year. AB 2689 would result in greater IOU accountability and improved consumer protection, safety, and affordability. The California Community Choice Association is a sponsor of this bill. STATUS: In the Assembly Rules Committee.
AB 2789 (Kamlager) WATCH – This bill would appropriate $1,500,000 and require the CPUC, in consultation with the CA Energy Commission, to request the California Council on Science and Technology to undertake and complete a study, as specified, relative to electrical grid outages and cost avoidance resulting from deployment of eligible renewable energy resources, battery storage systems, and demand response technologies. The bill would require the PUC to report the results of the study to the Legislature by January 1, 2022. STATUS: Awaiting a hearing in the Assembly Utilities and Energy Committee.
AB 3014 (Muratsuchi) WATCH – This bill aims to improve the reliability of California electric supply by reforming the State’s resource adequacy (RA) program. Specifically, this bill creates the Central Reliability Authority (CRA), a non-profit public benefit corporation, to purchase residual RA needed to meet state requirements while still allowing load-serving entities (LSEs), such as Community Choice Agencies (CCAs), to maintain their procurement autonomy. The newly created CRA also reduces costly RA purchases currently undertaken by the California Independent System Operator (CAISO) and greatly enhances the RA market. The California Community Choice Association is a sponsor of this bill. STATUS: In the Assembly Rules Committee.

AB 3021 (Ting) SUPPORT – This bill would appropriate $300,000,000 per fiscal year in the 2020–21, 2021–22, and 2022–23 fiscal years from the General Fund to the California Energy Commission to administer a program to provide resiliency grant funding and technical assistance to local educational agencies for the installation of energy storage systems. STATUS: Double-referred to Education and Natural Resources committees.


AB 3251 (Bauer-Kahan) WATCH – This bill would require that charging of energy storage systems be treated as load in calculations for demand response programs, and that capacity from energy storage systems installed on the customer side of the meter be allowed to be aggregated for purposes of determining resource adequacy capacity; and electricity exported to the grid from the customer side of the meter be allowed to count toward the capacity obligations of load-serving entities. STATUS: In Assembly, referred to Asm Energy Committee.


Senate Bills

SB 45 (Allen, et al) SUPPORT – Dubbed the “Wildfire Prevention, Safe Drinking Water, Drought Preparation, and Flood Protection Bond Act of 2020.” This is a proposed $5.51 billion general obligation bond to be placed on the November 3, 2020 statewide general election. Specifically, $570 million will be made available for climate resiliency initiatives including microgrids, distributed generation, storage systems, in-home backup power, and community resiliency centers such as cooling centers, clean air centers, hydration stations, and emergency shelters. STATUS: Passed out of Senate, in the Assembly, held at the desk.


SB 378 (Wiener) WATCH – Would establish customer and local government protections related to Public Safety Power Shutoff (PSPS) incidents. Specifically, the bill requires IOUs to provide annual reports to the Wildfire Safety Division within the CPUC on the condition of their electrical equipment and provide maintenance logs to assess fire safety risk. The bill also requires the CPUC to develop procedures for consumers and local governments to recover costs from IOUs accrued during PSPS events, improves PSPS notification procedures, and makes IOUs subject to civil fines if the CPUC determines that the IOU failed to act in a reasonable and prudent manner. STATUS: In the Assembly, pending committee referral.

SB 774 (Stern) WATCH – SB 774 would require IOUs to collaborate with the State’s Office of Emergency of Services and others to identify where back-up electricity sources may provide increased electrical distribution grid resiliency and would allow the IOUs to file applications with the CPUC to invest in, and deploy, microgrids to increase resiliency. Concerns focus on too much control being placed in the hands of the IOUs over microgrid development when other LSEs and stakeholders can and should play a role. STATUS: In the Assembly committee process with no committee assignment and no hearing date.


SB 917 (Wiener) WATCH – This bill renames the California Consumer Energy and Conservation Financing Authority and via eminent domain takes control of PG&E to create the Northern California Energy Utility District and a public benefit corporation, Northern California Energy Utility Services, to carry out day to day operations. The key provision of the bill that is relevant to Community Choice Energy is: “10623: The authority of a community choice aggregator to provide electric service within the service territory of the district shall remain as if the district were an electrical corporation.” STATUS: Triple-referred to Senate Energy, Govt & Finance, and Judiciary Committees.
SB 947 (Dodd) SUPPORT – This bill would require the California Public Utilities Commission to evaluate financial performance-based incentives and performance-based metric tracking to identify mechanisms that may serve to better align electrical corporation operations, expenditures, and investments with public benefit goals. STATUS: In the Senate Energy & Utilities Committee.
SB 1215 (Stern) – SB 1215, the “California Emergency Services Act” establishes the Office of Emergency Services in the office of the Governor and provides that the office is responsible for the state’s emergency and disaster response services for natural, technological, or manmade disasters and emergencies. Creates a grant program for microgrids. STATUS: In Senate, double-referred to the Governmental Organization and Energy Committees.
SB 1240 (Skinner) SUPPORT – This bill would require the California Energy Commission, in consultation with the California Independent System Operator, to identify and evaluate options for transforming the electrical corporations’ (Investor Owned Utilities’) distribution grids into more open access platforms that would allow local governments and other third parties to participate more easily in grid activities, as provided. The bill would require the commission to update the identification and evaluation at least once every two years. The bill would require the commission, beginning January 1, 2022, and biennially thereafter, to submit to the Legislature a report on the identification and evaluation of options. The Climate Center is a sponsor of this bill. For more details, see Kurt Johnson’s blog about this bill. STATUS: In Senate – referred to Senate Energy Committee.
SB 1258 (Stern) WATCH – Titled the California Climate Technology and Infrastructure Financing Act, this bill would enact the California Climate Technology and Infrastructure Financing Act to require the California Infrastructure Bank (IBank), in consultation with specified agencies to administer the Climate Catalyst Revolving Fund, which the bill would establish to provide financial assistance to eligible climate catalyst projects. STATUS: In the Senate Business, Professions and Economic Development Committee.
SB 1314 (Dodd) SUPPORT – SB 1314, the Community Energy Resilience Act of 2020, would require the Strategic Growth Council to develop and implement a grant program for local governments to develop community energy resilience plans. The bill would set forth guiding principles for plan development, including equitable access to reliable energy, as provided, and integration with other existing local planning documents. The bill would require a plan to, among other things, ensure a reliable electricity supply is maintained at critical facilities and identify areas most likely to experience a loss of electrical service. The bill would require the council to establish a stakeholder review board to provide statewide oversight for purposes of the grant program. The bill would require a local government, as a condition of receiving grant funding, to submit its plan and a report of project expenditures to the stakeholder review board within six months of completing the plan. The bill would require the stakeholder review board to annually report specified information about the grant program to the Legislature. The Climate Center is a sponsor of this bill. For more details, see Kurt Johnson’s blog about this bill. STATUS: Double-referred to the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committees.

Introducing: Davis Harper, New Stockton Community Organizer

Advancing Community Choice Energy one conversation at a time

My name is Davis Harper, and I am a writer, organizer, and advocate for the sustainable practices necessary to protect the planet’s most vulnerable communities. I’m very excited to be the newest member of The Climate Center team as the Community Outreach Specialist for Stockton and San Joaquin County. My role at The Climate Center focuses on encouraging the city and county to establish a Community Choice Energy agency (CCA) to serve residents and businesses in the city and county with cleaner electricity at competitive rates. About twenty CCAs operate in California, and it’s high time that our community begin to enjoy the benefits other communities are experiencing.

My appreciation for nature started from a young age, growing up in a small valley town an hour-and-a-half west of Yosemite National Park and the Stanislaus National Forest.

At the time, the deceptive calm of a quiet Sierra meadow or trickling creek felt untouched – a forever moment that had been and would always be. It wasn’t until much later that I would start to understand the many threats to these places, which often seem to be grounded in ideals of economic development.

I can still recite parts of the speech I gave on restoring the Hetch Hetchy Valley in one of my first college courses. The flooding of the valley in 1923 was the first issue for me that highlighted the dominant reckless attitudes we’ve exhibited toward the environment over the past century. Open grasslands? Graze them. Pine forests? Clear cut and send them off to a mill. More than a thousand acres of wetlands and serene meadows with towering Ponderosa pines, vibrant wildflowers, mule deer, black bears and more? Looks like an opportunity to funnel water to San Francisco.

With that speech, a seed had been planted.

The environmental impacts of mining and cattle ranching and the dislocation of indigenous inhabitants from national forests and parklands were likely not reflected in my Freshman presentation. This was before my time at the University of California, Santa Cruz, where terms like “political ecology” and “environmental justice” were integrated into my vocabulary. After earning my B.A. in Environmental Studies in 2018, I took a job at a local newspaper in the Sierra Nevada foothills, reporting on environmental issues and local government.

The work has helped me contextualize the concept that no issue lives in a vacuum, which makes careful reporting all the more important. Consider the intersection of wildfire protection strategies, forest restoration initiatives, logging interests, community power dynamics, climate change and, among members of the public, a general paranoia that their house will be the next to go up in flames come summer. With each stakeholder introduced to the mix, compromises across what appear to be a convoluted tangle of agendas start to emerge.

The experience has ingrained in me the principle that global change starts one conversation at a time. Concepts that seemed too “big” or “complicated” to have an opinion about were starting to occupy my daily Google searches. Talks with elected officials, passionate community organizers, off-the-grid recluses and business owners – all of whom landed across the spectrum on local and regional political issues – helped paint a picture in my mind of a divided community with so much potential for unity.

Everyone’s worth hearing out, and they’re worth protecting, too.

In Stockton, I spent the summer of 2019 collaborating with Rise Stockton – a coalition of nonprofits and the City – on the City’s Sustainable Neighborhood Plan, a long-term framework meant to inform the City Council on viable avenues for shifting to sustainable development practices. The emphasis is on carbon sequestration and emissions reductions in lower-income communities. Some efforts to achieve that include urban greening initiatives, walkable and bikable transportation planning and the promotion and organization of worker-owned cooperatives to sell fresh produce to local residents.

As we face climate change and its cascading consequences, it’s more imperative now than ever to practice historical and cross-cultural empathy – to share and hear the stories of those who came before us. That’s how we’ll build lasting partnerships with the diverse range of stakeholders necessary for meaningful climate action.

It’s not enough to only consider the soundbites of a global 1°C increase since the Industrial Revolution – upticks in severe droughts, wildfires, hurricanes, flooding, and other natural disasters. Equally crucial are the quantifiable, albeit, quieter injustices on each other and the planet that we’ve mined, fracked, clear cut and sprayed pesticides on for more than a century.

Lower-income communities in the City of Stockton and the Central Valley, in general, endure some of the worst air quality in the state.

We can’t let fears of changing marketplaces scare us away from breaking cycles we’ve known for decades to be impacting air, soil and water quality all over the world.

Advancing Community Choice Energy in Stockton and San Joaquin County will put power into the hands of community members to determine where their energy comes from and keep local dollars circulating in the local economy. It’ll take a commitment from the city and other community leaders to embrace Community Choice, and I hope to encourage those conversations and continue building momentum for this necessary transition.

I’m excited to grow, educate, and share positivity and hope in my work with The Climate Center and make some new friends along the way.

Of EVs and Redtails: a climate-friendly I-5 journey

By Ellie Cohen

As the great-horned owl hooted in the pre-dawn darkness, we packed up our fully charged 2019 Nissan Leaf SV Plus (180 freeway miles per charge) and began our journey south (395 miles south!). Feeling like pioneers of the past, Ann, Amanda and I were prepared.

The week before we’d downloaded the latest PlugShare app. Amanda mapped out where all the CHAdeMO fast chargers* were and calculated how far we could get on each leg to avoid range anxiety but still make it in a reasonable amount of time. We figured that a “normal” drive down to Los Angeles from the North Bay takes about six hours so driving an electric vehicle (EV) would take about nine.

We avoided the morning rush hour traffic by leaving early and reached I-5 as the sun was rising. It was a beautiful, cold January morning and we were hopeful. Before we knew it, we were at our first charging stop, in Santa Nella (124 miles from our start with 33% left on the battery). Using our PlugShare app, we confirmed that the charger had been used recently so, we assumed, it would be working today.

Alas, we pulled up to the Best Western Anderson (next door to the famous purveyor of pea soup and other fine highway foods), and found an ancient looking, and sadly, broken EVgo charger (photo- still believing it was functional!). After spending about 45 minutes trying to make it work (which included making several phone calls to the 800 number on the charger that only yielded endless busy signals, and after engaging with the hotel staff hoping they could make it work but to no avail), we decided to try another charger.

Guided by PlugShare, we simply crossed the freeway and as if entering a futuristic Emerald City, found a row of modern chargers at a Valero gas station (yes, the despised company from Texas that invested millions in California to undo our climate protection laws). There was a single Chargepoint CHAdeMo fast charger that we could use. Across the vast asphalt parking lot, were another 12 gleaming Tesla chargers, whose connectors were cleverly designed for just that, Teslas alone. If only….

Nonetheless, Ann whipped out her Chargepoint card, miraculously set up some time ago with her credit card as this was not something we had planned for. We giddily swiped the card, plugged in the charger, and the blue dashboard indicator lights lit up. It worked (photo- happy and self-assured)! We took a walk, grabbed some coffee, and had a delicious burrito breakfast at a taco truck when Ann was notified on her phone that the charge was complete. One hour and we were fully charged!

We were feeling very confident as we embarked on our next leg. Per our carefully laid out plan, we knew we’d have to charge once more before heading up the Grapevine then down into San Fernando Valley. Our destination was Studio City where we would be staying for five days in Los Angeles, visiting climate and community leaders for insights about our Climate-Safe California campaign for rapid decarbonization.

We were satiated and happy, planning out our upcoming meetings, sharing personal stories, counting an unbelievable 23 total Amazon Prime trucks that day (photo: doctored truck message**), and enjoying each other’s company.

We were not paying attention to our speed.

Now, if you’ve ever driven down I-5, you’d know that the speed limit is 70 but most travel at an average of over 80 miles per hour. The thing about electric cars is that once you start traveling over a certain speed, the remaining battery power can drop quickly and precipitously. At some point during our exuberant conversation, we glanced at our dashboard to check how much battery power we had left.

The mood turned serious. We were down to 36 miles with 34 miles to go. Uh oh…

The next closest CHAdeMO fast charger was 14 miles away but it was an EVGo at a hotel, with no recent users per PlugShare. It did not bode well based on our earlier experience. Sure enough, the outdated-looking charger was not functional. We called the 800 number again but to no avail.

Now we had to decide what to do. We could try for the next CHAdeMO charger but we’d have to drive under 55 miles per hour to hopefully make it or, we could use a trickle charge, regular outlet at the hotel. We decided we should try to add 5% to the battery and then we’d venture south. The front desk attendant was kind enough but at the deserted hotel, seemed a bit concerned about allowing us to plug in inside. We were fortunate to find an outdoor 3-pronged outlet. We plugged in. An hour later, we had only 1% more! We waited another 45 minutes, the percentage reading was the same but we decided to head south.

The next 60 minutes of driving were filled with range angst underlying quiet conversation. Miraculously, around five miles before Route 43 towards Taft (southwest of Bakersfield) where PlugShare indicated the next CHAdeMO charger was located, our remaining mileage started to go up in the car. Another fascinating aspect of EVs is that when you travel downhill or brake, the engine can regenerate energy into the battery! Phew…

There we found, across the lot from even more Tesla charging stations, eight Electrify America chargers (infrastructure owned by Volkswagon and apparently constructed as part of their Dieselgate settlement). Seven of the eight chargers were CCS, usable by many brands of EVs, but not the Nissan Leaf.

One charger was all we needed and there was one CHAdeMO. The sun was starting to set. It was hard to read the screen. Another uh oh…the screen was only showing computer code. It was getting cold. We called the 800 number. Miraculously, a lovely, live human being answered. We provided the serial number of that particular charger and after two lengthy reboots, the screen was up and the charger was humming. We were ecstatic!

Tired and relieved, we sat indoors at an adjacent food mart, charging our cell phones, snacking and listening to country music piped in from the local radio station. Suddenly, breaking through the din of the soft drink refrigerators, we heard someone speaking about climate change. It was a “Tom Steyer for President” ad. No escaping the campaign even here in the southern reaches of the Tulare Basin!

Since the battery was quite low at this point (~ 7% charge remaining), it took another 1.5 hours even with the fast charger to become almost full. The last hundred miles were thankfully uneventful as we cautiously climbed the Grapevine, drove over Tejon Pass (4,160’ elevation) and cruised down into Los Angeles County, completing our more than 12 hour journey with a delicious hot meal in Studio City.

Our days in LA were filled meeting with a dozen inspiring and accomplished civic leaders (photo- after visiting partners at the LA Cleantech Incubator).

On the last night, we planned our drive home.

In just over nine hours, we were back in the North Bay, this time having counted many fewer Amazon Prime trucks, but an impressive 24 Red-tailed Hawks along I-5 (maybe due to the winter storm that had blown through the night before). We had already begun planning our next trip—likely driving a Tesla or maybe even a Bolt instead—and planning out part of our campaign, to expand clean energy EV infrastructure for all!

*There are 3 major types of EV fast chargers: Tesla, CCS and CHAdeMO. CCS is the most common in Europe for a wide range of makes. CHAdeMO is most common in Japan. Read more here.

**Consumption-based emissions, the full life-cycle emissions embedded in goods, foods, travel and services from out-of-boundary locations- are most often not counted in greenhouse gas emissions inventories. In Marin County alone, these are estimated to account for 3x more emissions than tracked emissions. Learn more here and here.