December 9, 2016

Energy conservation in West Oakland


Photo Credit: Michael Mees //

The Port of Oakland is working together with the West Oakland community on ways to conserve energy use.

As North America’s sixth-largest container port, the Port uses prodigious amounts of electricity. Soon the Port will be extending “shore power” to ships, requiring them to plug into the shoreside electrical system while at dock, rather than running their auxiliary diesel engines. This will help clean up the air, but will represent a big increase in the Port’s energy use.

Also, Oakland is getting ready to develop port-related uses at the decommissioned Oakland Army Base. Such adaptive reuse of old buildings in an urban area conserves large amounts of building resources and minimizes sprawl, but the new operations will use significant energy.

Meanwhile, residents of West Oakland experience voltage drops and outages due to aging electrical infrastructure, and pay higher-than-necessary electrical bills because of inefficient appliances. Aging buildings and appliances present tremendous potential for retrofits to save power, but residents and building owners need incentives and financing to make this happen.

Community and environmental groups, joined by senior Port staff, have been meeting to discuss ways of addressing this situation. The Port has allocated $100,000 to study power needs, as well as opportunities for efficiency and local renewable-energy generation for the Port and its tenants. The community hopes to conduct a parallel study to unlock the tremendous potential in energy reductions and greening, for both the Port and the community. Resources for this are yet to be identified. The most exciting potential lies in solutions that simultaneously benefit the Port and the community.

A bill currently in the legislature, SB 843, could potentially help West Oakland. The intent is to allow utility customers to subscribe to community solar facilities. Individual renters and homeowners, as well as small businesses, would be able to subscribe to clean energy and reduce their costs for electricity. The bill, a two-year bill, is not currently moving during the legislative hiatus, and the Sierra Club is neutral for now, but we are supportive of what the bill is trying to do.


Work with us to help find resources for the community study. To come to meetings and get involved, contact David McCoard at or (510)524-5171; Brian Beveridge at
or (510)257-5640, ext. 2; or Chapter conservation organizer Jeramiah Dean at (510)848-0800, ext. 304, or

David McCoard

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