MCE: The power of an equitable energy future

Part of MCE’s history began in the early 1990s when Dawn Weisz, CEO of MCE, worked with small environmental justice groups to keep big business and polluting industries away from underserved communities in Southern California. Working alongside passionate groups like Mothers of East LA and Concerned Citizens of South Central to protect low-income and communities of color inspired Dawn’s pursuit of a sustainable energy future, ultimately leading to MCE.

MCE is a public, not-for-profit agency and its mission to address the climate crisis is centered on creating equitable community benefits. MCE has rocked the shift to clean energy for more than 1.5 million Bay Area homes and businesses, including frontline communities of color like the cities of Richmond and Pittsburg, which support the “first and worst” of polluting environmental impacts. It is MCE’s responsibility and privilege to challenge these inequalities and help shape a better future.

Energy affordability

The power of an agency like MCE lies not only in its ability to choose where its energy comes from. It’s the power to choose how your money is spent and to prioritize communities over profits. Instead of Filling shareholders’ pockets, MCE reinvests proceeds into local community benefit programs where it’s needed most, focusing on qualified and hard-to-reach customers.

A recent study of US household energy expenditure revealed that 16% live in energy poverty – defined as spending more than 6% of household income on energy bills. MCE aims to reduce this burden and not only offers cleaner energy, but often has lower rates than PG&E. MCE is also providing $10 million in bill credits to homes and small businesses that need it most.

ECM Low-income families and tenants The program has provided more than $1 million in energy efficiency rebates to owners of typically hard-to-reach multifamily properties whose tenants have household incomes at or below 200% of the federal poverty level.

Switching to an electric vehicle saves an average household $650 per year. However, the higher initial cost of an EV makes it out of reach for low-income households, which could greatly benefit from reduced fuel and maintenance costs. MCE has already distributed $1.4M in EV rebates for low-income earners.

Energy storage for social equity

Extreme heat, wildfires and drought have increased power outages in California, disproportionately affecting the health and safety of underserved communities. MCE invests in energy storage solutions to help protect people from power outages, reduce energy costs and California’s reliance on gas-fired power plants.

MCE’s energy storage program facilitates the adoption of customer-owned energy storage systems combined with on-site solar energy, reducing costs for low-income households and essential facilities such as schools and health clinics.

The batteries reduce monthly energy bills by providing on-site stored solar power during peak hours of the day when electricity is most expensive. It also reduces California’s need to rely on its 80 gas-fired power plants that help meet statewide peak electrical demand. Half of these facilities are located in areas designated as disadvantaged communities due to high cumulative socio-economic, environmental and health burdens.

California’s peak gas plants operate disproportionately on days when ozone concentrations exceed federal standards, worsening local air quality conditions. Using the batteries for daily load shifting from 4:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. maximum, MCE reduces the need to depend on these polluting power plants.

For those who do not have solar power and depend on electricity for a medical need, MCE has provided free clean and portable household batteries. 200 residents received batteries, helping them shelter safely in their homes during an outage and minimizing the need to use fossil fuel generators which increase air pollution, can be extremely noisy and can be difficult to access, start or transport during a breakdown.

Building a sustainable workforce

A successful clean energy economy creates pathways to help those working in the fossil fuel industry transition into long-term, well-paying careers in the clean energy industry. MCE supports sustainable and fairly paid local construction jobs in the energy sector through workforce training programs focusing on public-private partnerships for solar and energy storage installations, energy-efficient retrofits and electric vehicle charging stations. The training programs are aimed at young people, women and people who have already been incarcerated.

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Julio V. Miller