2020 will surely be remembered for its challenges—from the pandemic, economic hardships, and the struggle for racial justice to horrendous wildfires and the undeniable realities of climate change. But it also marks the beginning of new conversations and new hope.
In the spring of this year, the first Oakland EcoBlock found its perfect home, with more than two dozen committed families, a big research team, and supporters of the project coming together to pioneer a new approach to sustainable living. Working around COVID-19 restrictions in our bi-monthly community meetings, along with many individual conversations, we managed to get to know each other and better understand the needs and concerns of property owners and renters. And then, with energy assessments in houses and apartments up and down the block, it started to get real!
Our team was also busy behind the scenes. We’ve crunched numbers on solar panels and utility bills and researched the latest in efficient appliances. We studied the legal details of homeowners’ associations, co-ops, and different financing tools so everyone will know exactly what they’re signing onto and feel confident that the risks are managed. We also held many meetings with PG&E and the California Public Utilities Commission to decide how the microgrid will be connected, and who will be responsible for each of its parts—and beyond that, how new rules may allow more community microgrids to thrive in the future.
The EcoBlock project is attracting attention from many sides, partly because what we’re attempting to do is so ambitious. On the one hand, it’s just common sense and not rocket science to conserve and share energy and resources within a neighborhood. But on the other hand, it takes many people and organizations to work together in good faith. Our team is confident that with transparent communication, respect, and basic integrity, it’s possible to realize that level of cooperation.
Looking forward to the coming year, we’re excited to talk through all the options for your home retrofits, picking the best locations for solar panels, batteries and EV chargers, and crafting the fine print for the participation rules and financials to make sure that our EcoBlock solutions work for everyone. We’re inspired to show that even in difficult times, and maybe especially in these times, people in a community can come together with a vision and make good things happen. Thank you for all for your efforts big and small, and for being a part of this project!
With warmest holiday wishes to you and your loved ones,
Sascha, Therese, and Cathy