Building Grassroots-Led and Community Owned Energy Projects

Clean energy should be affordable and owned by everyone.

Energy is such a basic and important necessity that everyone should affordably access, own, and control it.

By now, you have probably seen the alarming headlines warning that we only have 12 years left to turn climate change around. That's not a lot of time! The problem is that we need energy to make stuff happen, and most energy is generated through polluting sources such as the burning of fossil fuels. Luckily, many groups have already figured out the solution: We need to democratize clean energy.

Check out our newest video!

Energy Democracy is pretty complicated... but we drew some cartoons to make the concept easier to understand. Check out this video of our Executive Director Janelle Orsi presenting at a day-long gathering of energy equity leaders. 

This presentation unpacks the concept of community-owned energy. Janelle also describes some basic legal concepts and offers some guiding principles for governance, financial structure, and long-term community control.

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10 Reasons for Lawyers to Draw Pictures

What's the point if your clients can't understand your advice?

As you probably know by now, our Executive Director Janelle Orsi, loves drawing cartoons. For our Fellows Week, Janelle drew this to inspire lawyers to be better communicators. 

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Filipino American History Month at the Law Center!

October is Filipino American History Month, Cooperative Month, and Domestic Violence Awareness Month!

This is Tia here, writing my first blog post for the Law Center! And you know I'm writing about Filipino American History Month for my Fil/Am fam. So here goes. 

Did you know that the Philippines has a strong history of cooperative economics, pre-dating Spanish colonization? For example, bayanihan is the practice of an entire town working together to build or move a house!

At the Law Center, we have three Filipino Americans in our squad! To celebrate Filipino American History Month, we're highlighting our own work, which just so happens to be work that also commemorates Co-op Month and Domestic Violence Awareness Month!

Adrien Salazar

Charlotte Tsui

Tia Taruc-Myers (that's me!)

Adrien Salazar is one of our board members. He wrote a blog post about Filipino Americans and the cooperative movement back in 2016 when he was still interning with us. Read his blog post to learn about more examples of pre-colonial shared labor agreements in the Philippines as well as examples of current efforts by Filipino Americans to harness the energy of coops!

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Another world is not only possible, she is on her way.

Reflections on the 2018 Worker Cooperative National Conference

By Ricardo Samir Nuñez, Director of Economic Democracy

     This September we hit a milestone: the ten year anniversary of the 2008 financial crisis that crippled the global economy. Institutions of international capital crumbled while the housing market collapsed. We had come as close as ever to proving that “it has become easier to imagine the end of the world than the end of capitalism.” The systems that extract wealth from our communities proved incredibly resilient. It is only now, ten years on, that people are starting to see what a world beyond capitalism could look like.

     That’s why spaces like the Worker Cooperative National Conference (WCNC) are so critical: they help expand the frontiers of our collective imagination and show us the future of work in action. These spaces show us the many paths being forged for a future where workers are compensated fairly and encouraged to show up as their fulls selves at work. The voices and stories I heard at the Worker Cooperative National Conference provided a radical vision of a future of de-commodified labor and comfort that we are a strong and growing movement.

NoBAWC members representing at the Conference!
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Berkeley Adopts New Urban Agriculture Ordinance

As the popularity of urban agriculture and community gardens rises around the US, the need to acknowledge, define, and allow them in city ordinances has become apparent. Many other cities in California have passed very permissible urban agriculture ordinances within the last decade, however, people are often surprised to learn that Berkeley has haFarm_Stand.jpgd only a very limited gardening ordinance that applied only in residential areas until now.

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Senate Passes Homemade Food Bill on Big Tech's Terms

Own Our Food Coalition Stands for Community Ownership and Control of the Food System, Warns of Imminent Uberization of Food

Slide35.JPGOAKLAND, CA (August 29, 2018)  Yesterday the California Senate passed AB 626, a bill designed to uberize California’s homemade food sector. The bill has been backed by gig economy tech companies including Airbnb, Josephine, and DishDivvy. A coalition of community based organizations in the food movement and small food enterprises lobbied against the bill, proposing an alternative policy for expanding opportunities for home cooks in California while protecting them from the exploitation of Big Tech.

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Berkeley One Step Closer to Adopting Policy to Support Worker Cooperatives

BERKELEY, CA (August 6, 2018) —In a milestone moment, over a dozen Berkeley worker-owners gathered Monday to testify before Berkeley City Council members during a Small Business Subcommittee meeting.

Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguin, a champion for worker cooperative businesses, presided over the meeting. In 2016, Arreguin sponsored a City Council Resolution to support worker cooperatives, and is now sponsor of a proposed ordinance that would solidify Berkeley’s place as a national leader of grassroots economic development.

“Worker cooperatives present an opportunity for upward mobility at a time when our broader economic model creates broad disparity and inequality,” said Mayor Arreguin. “This is a progressive strategy that represents our values and will make Berkeley a model.”


One worker-owner at the meeting, Chris Taruc-Myers of Alchemy Collective Cafe, described how worker cooperatives empower those who are most marginalized by our dominant economy. “We bring people in from the service industry who have never been invested in before” and get to watch them “come to life.” But he emphasized that these enterprises face a long list of barriers, including financing. “Banks don’t lend money to those without it, so we had to bootstrap with crowdfunding, kiva loans, and hard work.”

The social impact of worker cooperatives was a common theme. “People like to see their values reflected back at them at the businesses they shop at,” said Colleen Johnson of the Cheese Board Collective, a 50 year old Berkeley worker coop and local favorite pizzeria.

Worker-owners and cooperative advocates also stressed that worker cooperatives offer a solution to the increasingly urgent issue of succession planning as baby boomer small business owners retire.  “Our local landscape is about to undergo a dramatic shift,” said Alison Lingane of Project Equity. That shift could take Berkeley in one of several directions: local businesses could close their doors, be sold to absentee owners, or, if coop advocates get their way, be sold to the employees who helped build the business.

Berkeley resident and worker-owner Andrea Hurd also testified to the unique needs of worker cooperatives relative to a conventional business. “I transitioned Mariposa Gardening & Design from a sole proprietorship to cooperative ownership as a way to scale my business. As a sole proprietor, SBDC helped me,” Andrea explained, “but now that the business is a worker cooperative, they no longer not meet our needs. We’re completely unique, and the City can help businesses like mine by providing more specialized business development services.”

Mayor Arreguin’s proposed ordinance would remove many of the barriers these worker cooperatives face. If adopted, the ordinance would provide worker cooperatives with technical and financial assistance and bid preferences for city contracts. It would also support Berkeley business owners with succession planning and coop conversion services.

Addressing the worker-owners who testified, Councilmember Kate Harrison said, “You all are why I live in Berkeley. What can we do to make this [ordinance] happen?”

To receive ordinance updates: RSVP at

Questions? Contact: Yassi Eskandari / / 805-637-2734

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Resolution to support seed saving and sharing

By Neal Gorenflo for Shareable 

Seed saving and seed libraries are on the rise as communities deepen their commitment to healthy, delicious, local food. However, several U.S. states, including Minnesota and Pennsylvania, began applying regulation meant for commercial seed producers to small-scale, community seed libraries in 2014.

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How the East Bay Permanent Real Estate Cooperative is pioneering a model for equitable housing

By Saki Bailey for Shareable

Excerpt: The East Bay Permanent Real Estate Cooperative is an impressive burgeoning commons legal institution that's aimed at the decommodification of housing. It is pioneering a new legal institution for how we can own homes more equitably, collaboratively, and in such a way that they're permanently off the speculative market.

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Coalition applauds California’s low-income rooftop solar investment

By  for Solar Power World

Excerpt: Solar industry, renewable energy and environmental justice organizations and advocates applauded a decision today by the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) that will increase opportunities for low-income households to go solar, lower their utility bills and participate in the state’s growing clean energy economy. Following a multi-year process prompted by Assembly Bill (AB) 327, the Commission approved a 12-year solar rebate program for low-income homeowners living in disadvantaged communities that expands on California’s long-standing Single-Family Affordable Solar Homes (SASH) program. The decision was proposed by Commissioner Martha Guzman Aceves.

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Nonprofits and Clean Energy Entrepreneurship: Shifting the Norm at CalSEED

By Victoria Paykar

CalSEED has gotten its fair share of applicants looking to bring clean energy concepts to market. However, we see an important group mostly missing from this collection of entrepreneurs eager to advance their hardware or software concepts in energy efficiency, energy generation, storage, electric vehicle technologies and more: nonprofits.

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It's Your Summertime Magic: Policy Wins, Events, and Resources from the Law Center

Last month we shared 10 ways to make Sustainable Economies Law Center part of your summer. Now, we have even more summertime magic for you! Check out our upcoming events, recent policy news, legal resources, and new cartoon library!

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5 shared living ideas to counter rising housing costs

By Courtney Pankrat for Shareable 

Excerpt: In the past 50 years, overall housing costs for both renters and owners have skyrocketed at astronomical rates in the U.S. The most drastic example of this is in San Francisco, California, where according to one study saw a "37.9 percent spike, from $2,900/month on average to $4,000/month even" between 2012 and 2017, Curbed San Francisco reported. Meanwhile, the median income in the city by the Bay is around $82,900. This problem, of course, isn't limited just to San Francisco or the Bay Area. Residents in relatively smaller housing markets like Denver, Colorado and Portland, Oregon, are in similar boats. Traditional housing options are clearly unattainable for many, and people are getting creative in how they meet their housing needs. Some of these have been around for decades, like cooperative housing and community land trusts, while some like tiny house communities have been popularized in recent years. Below, we take a look at some shared housing models around the globe that people are turning to in order to counter the high costs of living.

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Capital Impact Partners’ Fourth Co-op Innovation Award Addresses Racial Inequality

By Capital Impact Partners

Capital Impact Partners announced today that it has awarded grants totaling $50,000 to the Association for Black Economic Power and the Sustainable Economies Law Center, co-winners of its fourth annual Co-op Innovation Award. This year, the award recognizes two organizations leading initiatives that address racial inequality and create social impact through economic empowerment for residents in low-income communities.

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'Workplaces are commons': Q&A with Sustainable Economies Law Center's Ricardo Nuñez and Chris Tittle

By Robert Raymond for Shareable 

Excerpt: Nobody gets to vote on the decisions made in the workplace, on who their boss is, on what they’re company produces or how it's distributed. When it comes to democracy in modern society, economic control is notably absent. The Sustainable Economies Law Center is an organization based out of Oakland, California, that puts economic democracy front and center in its mission to support community resilience and grassroots economic empowerment. The organization provides legal tools, such as education, research, advice, and advocacy with the aim cultivating a new legal landscape that supports economic democracy in the broadest sense.

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