Council to consider opposing PG&E initiative
Alameda’s Public Utilities Board is set to ask the City Council to formally oppose a statewide ballot initiative that they fear could impact their efforts to provide our local electric service.
The board voted unanimously on Monday to ask the council to oppose Proposition 16, which would require two-thirds of the voters in any locality to approve the use of public funds to create or expand electric service, or to set up a local agency to buy power for residents and businesses. A vote wouldn’t be required for existing municipal utilities like Alameda Municipal Power to continue. But officials there are concerned the initiative could curtail their efforts to expand the utility’s power supply.
Specifically, staff told the board that they’re concerned that “vague and ambiguous language” in the initiative could force AMP to go to voters each time they seek to develop certain power sources or to set up transmission lines outside city limits. (Renewable power sources like biomass and small hydroelectric plants are specifically exempted from the initiative’s vote requirement, while non-renewable sources are not.)
“Such restrictions could constrain Alameda Municipal Power’s (AMP) resource planning and procurement efforts by imposing two-thirds voter approval requirements prior to AMP committing to new investment in transmission or generation infrastructure,” senior energy resource analyst Brad Wetstone wrote in a report to the board.
As a member of the Northern California Power Agency, AMP helps pay for the construction of electric generation facilities – largely renewable facilities that include geothermal and landfill gas – in exchange for power to sell locally. But the utility also relies on non-renewable sources to provide 37 percent of our power.
Four other cities or city-owned utilities – Lodi, Lompoc, Palo Alto and Redding – have formally opposed the initiative. And the San Francisco Chronicle has reported that San Francisco and Marin County are making efforts to buy power directly for local residents.
Greg Larsen, a consultant working on the Yes on 16 campaign, said the initiative would not impact AMP’s efforts to create new sources of electricity or run transmission lines outside of town. “Neither of those would be true at all,” Larsen said.
“The only thing this initiative does is require a vote if a local government wants to spend public resources (or create) public debt to get into the electric business,” Larsen said.