Tell us about yourself: Rachna Handa, Castro Valley, California, MBA and BS in Mechanical Engineering.
I am an engineer by training and now work on the integration of distributed energy technologies such as energy storage, rooftop solar, and electric vehicle charging stations.
What is important to you about engaging with your local government: Local government can incentivize sustainable resource use.
Local government policy has a big impact on how resources are used and which resources are prioritized and encouraged. Energy is one such resource. The use of cleaner sources of energy has implications across not only the local jurisdiction, but beyond it as well.
What did you do: I attended a public workshop for my county energy aggregator.
Pursuant to California statutes that allow communities to form electric power aggregators, most cities within Alameda County, where I live, signed up to be part of East Bay Community Energy (EBCE). EBCE’s goal is to provide greener, cleaner, and lower cost electricity to our community.
I attended a public workshop that presented EBCE’s Local Development Business Plan. The workshop presented nine draft work products produced by the EBCE about how it intends to operate when it is launched on June 1st, 2018. These drafts are available on the Business Plan website.
What happened: I listened to a public forum and panel discussion.
The all-day meeting was called to order by the CEO of EBCE. The first half of the day was spent discussing the draft work products and answering questions the public had about them.
The second half of the meeting featured two panel discussions with various stakeholders within the community to understand how the EBCE decisions could impact them. For example, the first panel discussion was around ensuring jobs and local business development as a result of EBCE policies.
What did you get out of this experience: I was motivated and energized to take part in local decision making.
This was an educational and eye opening experience for me, both personally and professionally. I was encouraged that the discussion around strategies to benefit the community required a scientific understanding of the implications of policy making. I was excited that the importance of data and analytics was highlighted in developing these strategies, such as creating incentives to change behavior, rate design and calculate greenhouse gas intensity.
My experience at the meeting left me excited about the innovation being executed by EBCE. I was happy to see how STEM-trained professionals, who are comfortable handling data and understanding technical problems, have a key role to play in bringing these innovations to bear within the utility industry. Personally, I am eager to participate in this innovation and contributing my thoughts on how we can more effectively utilize clean, distributed sources of energy. This meeting encouraged my interest and confirmed that there is a role for my skill sets and interest in making my local community a better place to live.