Ethnic Studies speakers series continues with event on clean energy

The College of Ethnic Studies speaker series continued last week by raising awareness of the harm caused by large utility companies like PG&E.

Jessica Tovar, organizer for Local Clean Energy Alliance, led a discussion which included the audience by covering issues with utility companies, such as the requirement to sell 33 percent renewable power by the year 2020. She said that when companies build large power plants in the desert, they destroy ecosystems and require long, expensive transmission lines.

“Who pays for this?” Tovar asked the audience. “We do. Who benefits from this? They do.”

Tovar said that consumers can choose where they buy their energy and can opt out of large corporations.  The CLEA endorses one such program called “community choice energy,” which gives customers a choice in their energy provider by either choosing the program –– where cities or counties by energy in bulk from a licensed energy provider –– or stay with an investor-owned utility like PG&E.  

“Energy corporations want to remain a monopoly, making community choice look unappealing,” Tovar said.  “The most dangerous thing about these big corporations is that they use dirty resources and the community is exposed.”

Phil Klasky, instructor of the College of Ethnic Studies’ Race, Activism and Climate Justice course, said he has 18 solar panels.  However, people like Klasky who choose a different way of getting utilities, still have to pay a fee to PG&E every month.

Local Clean Energy Alliance advocate for a program that does not shut off electricity of homes for families who cannot afford to pay their bill.

“It’s a slow process,” Tovar said.  “But we have to be patient.”

Tovar said that through community choice, we can create economic development as well as good, local, unionized jobs.

A couple of Klasky’s teaching assistants agreed that this can be overwhelming material for students to hear.

“The most important thing is hope,” said Sophia Wenzel, Klasky’s teaching assistant.

“Community Choice Aggregation has been adopted into law by six other states.”

The next speaker in this series will be Pennie Opal Plant, a leader in the indigenous rights movements and will take place on Oct. 26 at 7:10 p.m. in HSS 130.