How Will California Have Clean Energy by 2045? With a Little Help From Oakland

As soon as I read the news that Governor Brown signed SB 100, a bill requiring California to become 100-percent carbon-free and clean energy efficient by 2045, I sent a text to my friend Mark Hall.

How is that possible?, I asked. Who’s going to make it happen?

Hall said he’d break it all down for me—including how it affects low-income kids in the flatlands of Oakland. We agreed to meet and talk about energy at a café called Kilovolt. Fitting.

The café is in West Oakland; it’s one of those dog-friendly joints that serves open-face sandwiches with avocado smear. Hall pulled up wearing a blue collared shirt and some avocado colored pants, and carrying a box full of materials he was set to deliver to Skyline High School, his alma mater.

Hall said he’d gotten the materials free of charge, notebooks full of information about developing clean energy lesson plans, simply by requesting them from PG&E.

Hall explained to me that PG&E, longtime energy provider to Alameda County, has partnered with East Bay Community Energy to deliver clean, renewable energy at lower rates. This model has been replicated clear across the state; it’s called Community Choice Aggregation. Marin County was the first on record to adopt it.

But that’s the higher-level info about how California is moving toward 100-percent clean energy. I wanted to know about the boots-on-the-ground kind of work. I needed more tangible examples; this clean energy conversation had always seemed too lofty to wrap my mind around.

My earliest memories of the concept of clean energy, for example, had something to do with the windmills near the Altamont Pass—the ones we saw when we drove down to Disneyland. And even then, there was a disconnect between how the energy is generated to how I could use it as a consumer, let alone get a career in the field.

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