Our electric company may be publicly owned, but public participation is down because it requires too much energy.
In 2017, eight of the eleven monthly Public Utilities Board (PUB) meetings, including two with important workshops and presentations, have been or will be held at the Alameda Municipal Power (AMP) offices at Clement Avenue and Grand Street, instead of at City Hall. I was late to one workshop because I could not get up to the secured conference room until someone happened by in the otherwise empty corridor and let me in. To make it even more difficult, AMP is scheduling the workshops during the workday, instead of in the meeting
The city does not televise or stream PUB meetings held at AMP’s offices in the same way as meetings at City Hall. Thus, the public cannot watch the meetings live, and the only unedited archive is an audio recording. Good luck dragging the online audio slider back and forth through two- to three-hour recordings to find the topic that interests you. Also, in an unlikely location, meeting minutes online are stored within meeting agendas. All other city meeting minutes are listed separately once approved, making them highly visible.
Some of the content on AMP’s website is murky too. The website used to show a detailed list of AMP’s power contracts for geothermal, wind, landfill gas and hydroelectric. Those details were recently removed. The website now contains an overview of AMP’s energy sources, directing readers to the so-called “Power Content Label” on another page, which says that 69 percent of AMP’s power is coming from “unspecified sources.”
There is now a recently added “Climate Change Projects” page that contains the misleading statement, “Alameda was able to sell some of its excess renewable energy to other organizations struggling to achieve compliance.” The decision some seven years ago to sell some of our renewable energy was not an act of altruism or kindness. It was done to reap a windfall to fund AMP projects.
Leaving Alamedans in the dark with fluffy spin, wittingly or unwittingly, fosters distrust. It also keeps public scrutiny at bay and discourages participation.
Comparing AMP and the public utilities board to a Star Trekkian force field, Gabrielle Dolphin’s recent letter to the editor (“What does ‘community owned utility’ mean,” June, 1) questioned the value of having a community-owned public utility “if its community cannot penetrate the process.” Point well taken. If Alamedans and other interested parties are to have a voice in the policies and operations of AMP, it shouldn’t be so difficult to participate in the process.
PUB members, which includes City Manager Jill Keimach , need to take the lead on ensuring that details of AMP’s portfolio are posted on its website and that all Alamedans can easily access information and attend or view meetings. As Ms. Dolphin noted in her letter, “a highly educated and experienced citizenry” is an untapped resource not being utilized. Let’s make it easy to participate and be heard.
We’re proud that AMP is community owned and delivers safe, reliable electricity at lower rates than Pacific Gas & Electric that provides Alameda with natural gas. Let’s also create an environment where we can be proud of its transparent and responsive methods of operation and civic involvement.
Irene Dieter posts stories and photos about Alameda at ionalameda.com.
The one renewable resource that Alameda Municipal Power (AMP) doesn’t get credit for is the never-ending stream of exaggerated claims about its green credentials. Look closer at its policies on solar power, selling off “extra” renewable power, local power generation and the health of our state’s rivers and streams as they relate to hydropower. You’ll find shortcomings that don’t match the rhetoric.
Last year, AMP changed its rate structure for rooftop solar to make it less favorable for owners of new installations. In May, the financial incentives were again reduced.
In contrast, with PG&E and other investor-owned utility territories, the old rate structure for new solar installations — called Net Energy Metering (NEM) — remains favorable. That’s because the state Public Utility Commission controls the solar rate structure for investor-owned utilities. But a loophole in the law allows municipal utilities like AMP to avoid following statewide goals on rooftop solar. The irony is that AMP is doing what PG&E wanted to do but couldn’t.
AMP justifies its actions by saying the old solar rate structure benefits a special class of ratepayers at the expense of all other ratepayers. Yet AMP has no problem giving a business $10,000 to design an energy-efficient building. This is a double standard. Favoring special classes of people and businesses to advance public policy goals, such as with taxes, discounts and preferential treatment, is a time-honored tool and should be used to advance renewable energy goals, not just efficiency programs or pet projects.
During the past five years, AMP sold off part of its renewable energy, raising over $25 million. The revenue was supposed to go for greenhouse gas-reduction programs, making the sale a benefit for the environment. The utility is using a large chunk or that money to replace existing meters with smart meters, even though there is no evidence that smart meters lead to a reduction in greenhouse gases. The benefits of the new meters are better management of the system, time-of-use pricing and reduction of personnel costs for meter readers.
Twice this year, energy experts have recommended that AMP and the Public Utilities Board consider creating localized power production. These facilities are known as distributed generation, in contrast to centralized high-capacity power plants. Producing power locally reduces transmission costs and improves local resiliency.
But AMP refuses to even start a feasibility study for a mini-solar farm on top of Mt. Trashmore, the former city dump next to the Bay Farm Bridge that could potentially produce up to 4 megawatts of solar power. There is even room on this city-owned property for a power storage unit that would allow storing daytime solar power for nighttime use.
Instead of a 4 megawatt solar farm that could become part of the city-wide power mix, AMP is instead planning a token 1/4 megawatt “community solar” facility that will sell “shares” to customers.
According to AMP Assistant General Manager for Energy Resources Planning Barry Leska, there is already too much solar generation in California. “AMP understands the importance of matching the new community solar installation to likely sales from the program, without oversizing the system and having to dump extra energy into an unfavorable grid market place,” he said.
“As you may be aware, during daytime hours there is an abundance of utility-scale solar generation on the grid, which is depressing market energy pricing during those times and causing curtailment of both renewable and non-renewable generation.
AMP does not get any of its power from solar farms through direct purchase contracts. AMP doesn’t want to buy solar even if it’s dirt cheap. AMP doesn’t want to produce solar power because it would have to sell it dirt cheap. If AMP took a new look at battery storage, solar might look more attractive. AMP’s review of energy-storage technology a few years ago said it didn’t make economic sense. But the technology is rapidly heading toward becoming mainstream.
AMP likes to tout the energy it buys that is generated by burning landfill methane gas. But landfill gas is not renewable. It ends in a matter of decades. The sun does not. Without proactive local and regional participation, California will never get to 100 percent renewable power. AMP’s “pricing-first, environment-second” policy is not helping us get there.
When it comes to protecting wild and scenic rivers, AMP comes out on the wrong side of the environment. Last year, the Friends of the River asked the city council to sign on to a letter opposing the construction of a new dam on a wild and scenic stretch of the San Joaquin River and also raising the Shasta Dam. AMP wrote a letter to the City Council urging the Councilmembers not to sign the letter; the Council signed it anyway.
AMP’s “green” hyperbole is losing power.
Be sure to check out my side of the story here:
From the Alameda Sun
Smart Meter Activist Arrested for Blockage
April 3, 2018
by Ekene Ikeme
Alameda police officers arrested an Alameda resident after he allegedly tried blocking the installation of Alameda Municipal Power’s (AMP) new smart meters at an apartment building Thursday, March 29.
Alameda resident Christopher Rabe was arrested at 10:30 a.m., according to Alameda Police Department (APD) reports. The incident took place at the apartment building on the 2200 block of Pacific Avenue where Rabe, 39, is a tenant.
Workers from Professional Meters, Inc., which AMP hired to conduct the smart electric meter installations, were attempting to install AMP’s new meters at the apartment building. At the residence the workers noticed Rabe was blocking the grid where the meters would be installed. He had also wrapped a chain around his meter.
Even though Rabe opted out of the program, restricting access to the electric meter is against the…
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*This is a letter I wrote to Alameda city manager Jill Keimach*
By now you , the PUB, and CIty Council have seen the videos I sent you of my RF measurements of AMP’s smart meters. These videos prove that smart meters transmit far more than 1,717 times per day, and that RF radiation from the smart meters can and does enter homes.
This in direct contradiction of statements made by AMP GM Nico Procos to the City Council on 12/5/2017. At that meeting, he stated that smart meters transmit 1,717 times a day, and that RF radiation from smart meters does not enter homes. He also took out his smart phone and said “These are much more of a concern than smart meters.”
I was planning to make a video disproving Procos’ statement that smart phones are more of a concern, as they emit far less RF than a single smart meter when in use. The RF radiation from a smart phone is only detectable about 1 foot away, whereas I have detected RF from smart meters over 30 feet away. Also, I have the option of turning my phone off, or putting it in airplane mode, which stops all RF emissions. You cannot turn your smart meters off or put them in airplane mode. They are always on, always emitting a near constant stream of pulsed RF radiation. A bank of 5 or more smart meters emits constantly, 24/7.
However, this seems futile. I have already made videos proving that there’s more to the story, and what response have I got from city officials? Mayor Spencer was the only one who contacted me to discuss my findings. She put the issue on the City Council meeting agenda on 12/5/2017. Nothing came of it. The city attorney reminded the Council that they have no jurisdiction over AMP, and are essentially powerless to do anything.
When I first made Rebecca Irwin of AMP aware of my videos in September, she claimed the RF in my videos was from WiFi, my own cell phone, or some source other than the 21 smart meters I was standing in front of. I made her aware that my RF meter shows the frequency, and it was 900Mhz, the same frequency emitted by smart meters, and not the same as cell phones or WiFi, which emit a higher frequency. I also was not using a cell phone to record the video. She assured me that AMP had an RF meter and were going to do some testing to verify my results. I still have not heard back from her. I have not heard anything from the PUB, City Council, or you Ms. Keimach.
I believe the responsiblity lies on your shoulders. If you have not seen my videos, I urge you to please watch them. Why isn’t anyone doing anything about this? Shouldn’t AMP at least attempt to debunk my claims? Where is the results of their smart meter RF testing? This should be available for the public to see.
Here is the link to my videos: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCu-P_X9K1Umq8_UHzYoxVWA/videos
Please let me know if you have any questions. I look forward to hearing from you.
- The American Academy of Environmental Medicine (AAEM) has called for a moratorium on smart meters based on the documented health hazards of microwave/radio frequency radiation from smart meters. www.AAEMonline.org
- The World Health Organization (WHO) has categorized radio frequency radiation as a Class 2B potential carcinogen (like lead, DDT and car exhaust).
- So far 57 local governments, mostly in California representing almost 4 million people, have passed ordinances that ban smart meter installations or make them illegal in their jurisdictions.
- After lying to the public and being ordered by an administrative law judge to answer specific questions, Pacific Gas & Electric disclosed the average number of radio frequency pulses from their smart meter were about 14,000 a day and the maximum would be over 190,000 pulses a day.
- Smart meters tie into a “smart grid” that dangerously compromises energy security by making the entire power grid vulnerable to hacking and cyber attacks.
- Those with access to smart meter databases can review a permanent history of household activities complete with calendar and time-of-day metrics to gain a highly invasive and detailed view of the lives of the occupants.
- Smart meters are, by definition, surveillance devices which violate Federal and State wiretapping laws by recording and storing databases of private, personal activities and behaviors without the consent or knowledge of those who are monitored. With analysis of certain smart meter data, unauthorized and distant parties may determine medical conditions, physical locations of persons within the home, vacancy patterns, personal information and habits of the occupants.
- AMP has not adequately disclosed their smart meter radio frequency specifications, or the particular recording and transmission capabilities of their smart meters, or the extent of the data that will be recorded, stored and shared, or the purposes to which the data will and will not be put.