March 23, 2023

By Hank Greenberg

Igor Tregub sits on Berkeley California’s Environment and Climate Commission. The commission “advises the City Council on funding of environmental sustainability and climate change mitigation,” according to Berkeley’s government. Previously, Tregub was a Berkeley Rent Stabilization Board Member. He wants to use his role as a leader to bring attention to environmental issues in his first home, Ukraine. 

Tregub’s environmentalism dates back to his early childhood. He was born in Ukraine when it was part of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR). When he was young, his family left in order to pursue a better life and moved from Ukraine to Israel and then to Germany. Eventually, they settled in the United States. 

Tregub believes exploring nature in so many different environments as a child led him to become an environmentalist as an adult. 

 “One of my formative experiences was in Germany,” Tregub remembered. “We lived in a suburb, outside the city, and it was adjacent to this big forest. I just loved venturing out into the forest on the way to the school bus station. Sometimes, I’d take the bus to school and sometimes I would venture out for more hours. I never told my parents.”

As Tregub got older, his interest in nature became more focused. 

“When I moved to California, I learned of the Chevron cloud in Richmond [caused by an oil refinery fire], which was only eight miles away from me,” Tregub said. “I learned of West Oakland, which is basically an asthma alley. It’s bisected by freeways and the Port of Oakland. I started to think a lot about the connections between energy, justice, and climate.” 

Now, Tregub’s life mission is to democratize the energy industry. He works for the California Solar and Storage Association (CALSSA) as a policy advisor. Tregub guides the organization to make decisions that will expand access to solar power to California residents.

“The monopolistic investor-owned utilities still determine the cost of energy,” Tregub said. “They still have an incredible amount of asymmetric power, but it should be the people who determine the cost of energy.”

Tregub recently worked on a grassroots campaign to prevent an additional tax from being levied on solar energy users in California. 

“We were able to stop a proposed $57 per month tax on solar,” Tregub said. “We won with a true grassroots effort, unlike the [energy corporations’] little astroturf effort. We had 700 organizations sign on. The California Congressional delegation signed on. We had schools, places of worship, nonprofits, and environmental justice organizations join with us. Millions of people were working together. It was the most successful campaign I’ve ever been a part of.”

Tregub’s goals are not limited to California. He wants to expand renewable energy access back to his homeland of Ukraine. Access to energy sources is at the center of the Russia-Ukraine War.

“Russia is waging energy warfare,” Tregub said. “Putin enjoys a monopolistic stranglehold on Russian oil and gas right now. Oil and gas make $258 million dollars per day for Russia. Oil alone funds the war in Ukraine.”

Estimates from Statista list Russia’s energy at 751 million dollars per day, which nearly triples the number Tregub cited.

“Russia still has a stranglehold on Ukraine’s energy supply. How can this be?” Tregub questioned. 

Tregub believes the power of collective action could help Ukraine become free from dependency on Russia after the war ends. 

“I am working on a new project right now to establish supply chains that can deliver solar panels,” Tregub said. “They need solar powered flashlights and solar powered batteries in the toughest to access areas of Ukraine. They are suffering the most. They spend months in extremely cold and unpleasant environments.” 

Tregub also stressed that a carbon-free energy system will protect Ukraine from any future attacks. 

“Energy substations, transformers, and other elements of the grid are like sitting ducks,” Tregub lamented. “Russia is deliberately attacking them. The real life consequences of that are…”

Tregub trailed off mid-sentence.

“I mean, this is what Putin is hoping for,” Tregub picked back up. “He wants enough Ukrainians to die because they do not have access to medicine, to heat, to water, or to food. He doesn’t want Ukrainians to have access to electricity.”

Tregub ended our interview by drawing a parallel to his work in California.

“The work I do in California is all about people regaining control of our grid back from monopolistic entities,” Tregub said. “That is the same type of vision that I hope and pray for, that I am working toward in Ukraine. I want it for the people in my home of Ukraine.”