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Gilroy has a lot to offer. What makes Gilroy so special are the people that make up each of my interactions here, from stopping by Camino Coffee for a morning pick-me-up to engaging with our local organizations working hard for causes that improve this community—the people of Gilroy are powerful. 

Zach Hilton
Zach Hilton

It’s through this local activity that we hold the power to have an impact on our neighbors, coworkers and the rest of the Silicon Valley region. This Earth Month, I’m proud of the work our local community is doing to better the environment to improve the lives of all our neighbors.

I sit on the Silicon Valley Clean Energy (SVCE) Board of Directors, and I have felt the power of having local control of our energy supply. SVCE is a not-for-profit community choice energy provider that serves 275,000 residents and businesses in 13 Santa Clara County communities. 

The Gilroy City Council voted to join this joint powers agency in 2016, and while I was not on the council at that time, I am grateful to my predecessors for seeing the value that SVCE would provide to the residents of Gilroy for many years to come.

Through this local agency, Gilroy has not only had a voice in where our power comes from (clean, renewable resources) but has benefitted from the community reinvestments that SVCE provides. 

Since our community began receiving electricity from SVCE in 2017, Gilroy residents and businesses have saved over $6 million on their electricity bills. Currently, SVCE generation rates are 4% less than PG&E. 

But the value of community power goes beyond the bill savings. Burning fossil fuels to power our homes and vehicles in Gilroy poses short-term and long-term risks to individual and community health. The emissions from technology we use everyday—like water heaters and stoves—increase the risk of Asthma, stroke, susceptibility to respiratory infections, and other extreme conditions. 

Residents and businesses choosing to transition to electric technologies when their existing, old appliances fail are improving air quality for their home, workspace and community. While these equipment upgrades are feasible for many, a just transition requires that all community members have access to make these improvements affordably, if they choose. 

SVCE is supporting Gilroy residents in taking their health into their own hands by providing rebates to customers that upgrade from gas to electric for many major appliances and offers additional funding for customers that meet income-qualifications. In 2023, Gilroy residents claimed $43,500 in rebates from SVCE to make electric upgrades to increase their homes’ health and safety. 

The work does not end there; as a board member, I have been vocal about the need to reduce barriers to these home improvements and voted to approve a multi-family direct install program to address these concerns. The Community Agency for Resources, Advocacy, and Services (C.A.R.A.S.), a Gilroy community-based organization that provides rental and deposit assistance to income-qualified residents, engaged with SVCE to provide feedback and insight for the design of the multi-family install program. 

Voices from Gilroy are embedded in the programs that SVCE builds for its customers, thus having a say on how we reinvest in our community. 

Going beyond the customers that have received financial or informational support to make healthy home upgrades, SVCE reinvests in all of Gilroy by sponsoring and attending community events like signing up as the first sponsor of the inaugural La Ofrenda Festival. SVCE has also supported family and youth education event series like the Gilroy Gardens Natural Science Days and Silicon Valley Reads. 

This Earth Month, I am grateful that in Gilroy, we have clean energy and local resources to help reduce pollution from fossil fuels to help make our region cleaner, safer and healthier for everyone, and especially for future generations. 

Zach Hilton

Gilroy City Council Member and SVCE Board Member

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