Marin Clean Energy (MCE) is a Community Choice Aggregation (CCA) program created under the auspices of the Marin Energy Authority (MEA), a joint powers authority (JPA) consisting of the county and 7 cities and towns. More than 6 years worth of work, study, analyses and community workshops and forums brought the Board of Supervisors and 7 of the cities and towns to the point of creating a CCA in Marin. While Marin is the first county in California to embark down this path, other states, such as Massachusetts and Ohio have successfully created CCA programs and customer rates are typically lower.
In August 2002, the state legislature passed AB117 which allowed for local governmental entities to purchase energy contracts as Community Choice Aggregators and work in conjunction with the existing power company to deliver the energy to customers. The legislation strictly outlined how a CCA was to be set up, how the existing power company worked with the local CCA, how the rate payers were to be included and the role of the CPUC. The question has arisen about why the voters didn’t have the option to vote on whether or not to participate. One of the specific elements of the legislation called for an opt-out choice for the rate payers meaning that once a local governmental entity created a CCA, rate payers within the jurisdiction would be transferred into the program with the option to opt out and remain with the pre-existing energy company. This would allow all rate payers to choose not just the registered voters, which in a low turn-out election would not allow everyone who pays a PG&E bill to have a choice. Opting out is an easy phone call…and those who are ineligible or not registered to vote can also decide whether or not to stay with PG&E or MEA. When AB117 was written, PG&E worked with the legislators to make some changes and did not oppose the final legislation which included the opt-out option.
Marin Clean Energy
CCA is not the same thing as a municipal provider. Marin Clean Energy (MCE) is a renewable energy alternative to PG&E's electric supply that will soon be available to Marin customers.
MCE is responsible for sourcing the power and purchases the energy supply while PG&E continues to deliver the energy, maintain and repair transmission lines, and provide customer service and billing.
The Marin Clean Energy Program supplies nearly twice the renewable energy content that you currently receive - at the same rates you currently pay.
An online poll from the
Marin Independent Journal:
Is Marin Clean Energy a Financial Risk?
Total Votes = 826
- Yes: 246 Votes, or 29.78%
580 Votes, or 70.21%
CCA is not the same thing as a municipal provider. Approximately ¼ of the energy delivered to customers in California come from municipal providers. With a municipal provider, a governmental agency owns and operates the transmission infrastructure and all or part of the power generators. The agency also manages, administers and accesses energy to distribute. A local example is Alameda which provides up to 50% clean, renewable energy at about 20% less the cost of what Marin residents pay PG&E which provides 13-14% clean, renewable energy. With a Marin CCA, PG&E would still own, operate, manage, maintain and administer the infrastructure and services, but the CCA would purchase its own portfolio of energy. This appears as the “generation” part of a customer’s PG&E bill. For example, the “generation” charge for a $55 bill was $8. It’s the $8 part of the bill that Marin Clean Energy would have control over and receive reimbursement for. The rest of the bill would still belong to PG&E.
Within a year or two of passage of AB117 legislation, the Board of Supervisors began investigating the possibility of creating a CCA in Marin County. A representative of PG&E encouraged the county to take steps to develop the program and promised to work collaboratively with the county through the process. Over the years, several studies were conducted including feasibility and financial studies, a business plan was developed, cities and towns were approached regarding whether or not there was interest in participation (eight joined), by-laws were created and peer reviewed reports from experts in the industry were generated. Visit www.Marincleanenergy.info to review these documents.
The county pays more than a million dollars/year in energy costs. Marin Clean Energy offers the opportunity to bring revenue back into the local coffers rather than into the shareholders pockets. These revenues can be used to create green jobs and build our own local energy producing facilities such as solar, wind, methane digesters, etc. and become more independent of fossil fuels and more locally sustainable. The money saved from becoming energy producers can be used for other general fund programs. For example, the Santa Rita jail in Alameda County placed solar tiles on the roof reducing the energy use and electric costs by 1/3, estimating a 15 million dollar savings over the course of the 25 year life of the solar tiles http://www.acgov.org/srjp/caseStudy.PDF .
The joint powers authority (MEA) is the governmental agency that takes on the liability. All meetings and decisions about how money is spent will be locally decided and subjected to the Brown Act open meetings law which will provide more transparency than what is currently available to customers with PG&E.
Our cities and the county pay more than a million dollars/year in energy costs. Marin Clean Energy offers the opportunity to bring revenue back into the local coffers rather than into shareholders pockets.
These revenues can be used to build our own energy producing facilities such as solar, wind, methane digesters, etc. and become more independent of fossil fuels and more locally sustainable. The money saved from becoming energy producers can be used for other general fund programs. For example, the Santa Rita jail in Alameda County placed solar tiles on the roof reducing the energy use and electric costs by 1/3, estimating a 15 million dollar savings over the course of the 25 year life of the solar tiles.
There is a firewall protecting each of the individual member agencies’ general funds should the program not be successful. The MEA recently signed an energy contract that guaranteed at least 25% renewable energy at or below the PG&E price (for the generation line of the bill). The rate payers are protected through a bond that would pay for seamless continuation of electricity to customers without a difference in rates from continuous PG&E customers. Finally, and most remarkably, a few private Marin residents have taken the first line risk for the start up costs ($750,000). The county recently co-signed for the second place on the loan. Once the money starts coming into MEA, these loans will be paid.
It is unfortunate and disappointing that PG&E has chosen to change course from the early promise of cooperation. Our county has had a good relationship with PG&E in the past. Their June ballot initiative which would require a 2/3 vote before any governmental agency could bring public energy to its community is nothing more than a Monopoly Protection Act. If it passes, it would adversely affect not only those communities wishing to embark on a CCA program, but all municipal providers as well.
When the state legislature passed AB1890 in 1996, the resulting deregulation fiasco cost the taxpayers billions of dollars to bail out the failing investor owned utilities for poor business decisions. Rate payers are still paying this on their bills (the DWR line on the bill). PG&E continues to request rate adjustments through the CPUC. Currently, PG&E enjoys a monopoly in Marin. PG&E is spending tens of millions of dollars in a political campaign to protect its monopoly and undermine the efforts of local community choice aggregation. The CPUC recently admonished PG&E for its unlawful tactics.
I received many calls and emails of support for MCE from residents of District 1 and a few from people who opposed the program. After reviewing all of the documents and the peer reviewed reports and after hearing from the CPUC that the plan meets all of the requirements for a CCA and was acceptable for moving forward, I believed it was time to move forward and give Marin Clean Energy a chance. I have already put my money where my mouth is and have signed up to be one of the first deep green customers. For more information on Marin Clean Energy opting out or opting up to deep green, go to www.marincleanenergy.info.