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A Jolt of Reality: The Energy Queen at Kinfolx in Oakland

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Nia Jones, the Energy Queen, poses for a photo while wearing a dark floral blazer and a white dress shirt.
Nia Jones, the Energy Queen. (Courtesy Nia Jones)

We all know the rent is too damn high, but let’s talk about the electricity bill for a minute. 

In November, the California Public Utilities Commission approved a rate increase for PG&E customers of approximately 12.8%, or what  PG&E said should be about an increase of $32.50 for an average bill.

For many, this news didn’t hit home until it was reflected in their monthly bill this year. And then questions popped up. Namely, what can be done to lower the cost of electricity?

Students sit in a classroom, taking notes as Nia Jones speaks about climate change and clean energy.
Nia Jones speaks to a classroom of students about climate change and clean energy. (M. Mensah Webb, MS)

Enter Nia Jones. She’s a clean energy advocate. In fact, her nickname is the Energy Queen. She’s originally from Washington, D.C., and currently based in Oakland. She’s got two immediate goals: to inform people about what’s happening to their energy bill, and to show them how it connects to the bigger picture.  

Over the past few months, Jones has hosted discussions on the topic at public libraries around Oakland; on Tuesday, May 7, she’ll be at Kinfolx Cafe discussing all things electricity.

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In line with the cafe’s ongoing series of teach-in sessions, where local practitioners share insight on their area of expertise, Jones will discuss lowering electricity costs, the future of electric cars, and ways to use solar power to not only generate energy, but revenue as well.

Nia Jones speaking to a room full of attendees at the annual Megawatt conference.
Nia Jones speaks to attendees of the annual Megawatt conference. (Njeri Bennet)

Jones has a master’s degree in energy and resources from UC Berkeley, and she’s spoken at the United Nations Climate Change Conferences in Egypt and Dubai. But right now she’s focusing her work on the Bay Area.

“Oakland has so much potential, in my opinion, to be a leader, and be a real clean community, a sustainable community,” Jones says.

As an example, she mentions the AC Transit bus system, where one out of every 10 buses is a clean energy vehicle. (By 2040, the agency aims to operate a 100% clean energy fleet.) Expanding from there, she says the state has shown the ability to take innovative approaches to energy usage, from its prevalence of electric vehicles to the mass installation of rooftop solar panels.

And while she’s focused locally, Jones knows it’s imperative to broaden the conversation to the national level by looking at how the federal government is supporting energy innovation.

“There is legislation and money for us to take advantage of,” Jones tells me during a recent phone call. “And when I say ‘us,’ I mean Black and Brown communities that are historically disadvantaged when it comes to energy.”

Jones adds that her aim is to discuss the concept of “energy justice.” To guide people through the topic, she uses acronyms, like “A.R.C.” Jones tells me that the A stands for affordable energy, and the R for reliable energy, and the C for clean energy.

Through her unique methodology, Jones is looking to demystify what’s going on with energy. At the same time, she plans on giving gift cards to folks who attend. They’ll not only walk away with a new perspective on how energy works, but also some financial assistance to go toward keeping the lights on.


Nia Jones speaks on clean energy and lowering your electricity bill on Tuesday, May 7, at Kinfolx Cafe in Oakland. The event starts at 6:30pm and is free to all.

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