I experienced the sold-out Meeting of the Minds workshop last week and it was excellent. I was able to make new connections with groups outside of Sacramento. In the morning attendees heard from Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg, Stockton Mayor Michael Tubbs, and UC Davis Energy and Efficiency Institute Executive Director (and CleanStart Board member) Benjamin Finkelor.

Outside the speaker area SMUD’s Lupe Jimenez, SMUD R&D Manager of Transportation and Storage was showing off SMUD’s portable batteries–60kwh batteries that can power food trucks or serve as temporary car charging locations while a site is under development. The portable batteries come from FreeWire,  a Bay Area company offering concierge charging. The batteries are a cool nexus of storage, charging and distributed power in which SMUD is leading.

On the first day I hopped on the tour for car sharing in low income housing areas. We learned about Sacramento Air Quality Management District (SAQMD) received $2.3 million in grants to create a free care share for affordable housing and undeserved communities.  SAQMD  partnered with Sacramento Housing and Redevelopment Agency (SHRA), Mutual Housing of California, and Zipcar in the past year and a half to bring EV car share to Sacramento residents.  Sacramento has been a pilot to provide EVs for ride sharing to low income public housing. We heard from residents who benefited from having access to them.  The issue they are facing is they have so much demand they are looking for ways to expand the program.. They are expanding by buying Chevy Bolts with a range of 240 miles, but with an average trip of 10 miles and daily use of 50. I asked why not go for a used EV that costs a tenth of the price, but did not get a clear answer. Expanding ride sharing to SHRA and Mutual Housing’s community connects them to economic opportunity they wouldn’t have and is important for equity.

The second day of the Meeting of the Minds was excellent with Aura Vasquez, Commissioner of the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, sharing how they have made a commitment for equitable service while striving for 100% renewables.   She was Followed by Arlen Orchard, CEO and General Manager of SMUD and Debora Smith, CEO and General Manager of Seattle City Light. They had a chat on where they each saw utilities going in the future. SMUD was recognized as a leader who had connected electronically to all of their customers.  Orchard talked about SMUD’s ability to do research and provide better service to their rate payers. This included being able to support small and growing businesses better, being able to give them more personalized attention. Orchard also highlighted how SMUD was partnering with CCAs in California to share their success.

I sat down with Misha Houser, Co-Founder of Autonomy Foundation, Al Burnshaft SVP of Dassault Systemes Americas, and Leonardo Sosa CEO and Executive Director of <dev/Mission> who were on a panel entitled Workforce of the Future  – Bridging the Gaps Requires a Rethink. We talked about how CleanStart can connect businesses with CSU Sacramento Students to help both grow in the region. There is a chance Meeting of the Minds will return to Sacramento.  If they do I hope they make a stronger outreach to the local community because they missed some really cool things. Like the downtown Hyatt’s partnership with SMUD and Grid Rabbit that has resulted in major growth for Grid Rabbit. Overall though it was a good event to attend and make connections.


Thomas is the Executive Director of CleanStart. Thomas has a strong background in supporting small businesses, leadership, financial management and is proficient in working with nonprofits. He has a BS in Finance and a BA in Economics from California State University, Chico. Thomas has a passion for sustainability and a commitment to supporting non-profits in the region.

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