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Marin Clean Energy Goes Countywide

Corte Madera, Larkspur and Ross join Marin Energy Authority, bringing public power to all Marin.

The Marin Energy Authority (MEA) board approved last week the admission of Corte Madera, Larkspur and Ross to MEA's public-power consortium, leaving the agency just formalities away from being able to offer its environmentally friendly Marin Clean Energy alternative to all county residents.

Along with recently added Novato, those towns were the last municipalities in the county not to have joined the MEA. But all four came into the fold before the Nov. 7 expiration of an amnesty period the agency had granted to allow the communities to join without paying a substantial fee. Corte Madera was the last holdout, finally approving MEA participation on Nov. 1.

“We’re really excited about this,” said MEA Executive Officer Dawn Weisz. “The expansion to additional communities allows us to move more quickly toward our mission of providing more renewable energy in the region and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.”

Weisz said the forthcoming MEA expansion will have several beneficial impacts for customers, starting with “the increase in renewable energy that’s being offered to customers in Marin, the ability for customers to choose between a variety of products other than the one that they’ve had—the only choice that they’ve had up until now—and then the ability to accelerate our goals to reach greenhouse gas reduction targets. Those are certainly impacts that will not go unnoticed.”

MEA board president Damon Connelly shared Weisz’s enthusiasm. “I see full participation by all the Marin jurisdictions as strengthening the agency,” he said. “We’re going to be that much more able to go out and get credit; we’re going to be a stronger market participant; it could affect the ability to get rates. I think the new communities coming on board will see a lot of benefit.”

The agency’s retail arm, Marin Clean Energy (MCE), began selling power to local consumers in 2010 and is preparing for a big jump in its customer base, spokesperson Jamie Tuckey said.

“We are currently serving about 13,000 customers,” said Tuckey, “and with the addition of Corte Madera, Larkspur, Novato and Ross to the program, now everyone in Marin County is eligible. Next summer we’ll be offering the program to all those in Marin who haven’t already signed up, and we expect our customer base to expand to approximately 95,000.”

Will that expansion lead to a decrease in MCE rates? Weisz cautioned not to look for any major reductions soon.

“There won’t be a big impact,” she said, “but certainly an expansion like this does give us the ability to spread costs over a bigger load, and that will allow us to have a slight downward pressure on our rates. That’s encouraging.”

As MCE phases in new customers, those customers will have some decisions to make. Tuckey explained that consumers can choose to go with MCE or stay with Pacific Gas & Electric Co. (PG&E) as their energy supplier. Under state law, however, customers wishing to remain with PG&E must formally opt out of MCE participation.

MCE customers also get another choice. They can select either the company’s default “Light Green” option, consisting of 27 percent renewable energy, or its slightly more expensive “Deep Green” option, consisting of 100 percent renewable energy.

Tuckey said direct rate comparisons between MCE and PG&E are difficult, since rate structures are complex and vary with type and amount of usage.

MCE’s residential rates are generally somewhat higher than PG&E’s, particularly for higher energy users, and MCE’s commercial rates are generally somewhat lower than PG&E’s,” she said.

But Tuckey doesn’t believe consumers see cost as the only factor in their decision. She emphasized that MEA’s whole mission is to purchase power from as many renewable sources as possible; currently the agency gets 27 percent of its electricity from renewable sources compared with 15.9 percent for PG&E. (Both of those figures exclude large-scale hydropower resources, which California doesn’t classify as “renewable.”)

That mission, Tuckey believes, will be a big draw to Marin’s environmentally conscious consumers as Marin Clean Energy continues to expand countywide.

Randy Engle November 07, 2011 at 03:31 PM
The Marin Clean Energy/PG&E Partnership is looking like a bit of a scam to me. Last month our bill was increased by over $100! I opted out. Take a close look at your electric bill, folks
Kevin Moore November 07, 2011 at 04:18 PM
I find it odd that hydro is not considered renewable energy, but solar and wind energy generation are considered renewable. 15.6% of PGE power comes from hydro electric, which puts PG&E higher than MEA. MEA got a sweetheart deal with Shell Energy. The minute I think costs are escalating (which could be soon), I will bail.
Kenji Hirabayashi November 07, 2011 at 04:31 PM
I have been under the MCE Deep Green Plan for about five months and couldn't be happier. Last years 10/11/10 bill was $35.82 for electricity and $62.23 total. This years 10/13/11 bill was $30.20 for electricity and $60.41 total. Comparing using PG&E's website, last years Average per week = $0.1190/kwH versus this years $0.1063/kwH. The only scam is from the mouths of those saying they are paying so much more than before. Check your numbers at the PG&E website by going to billing and click on compare bills. I had no problem thinking I was paying slightly more for a better, cleaner product and I now see that I certainly have no problem paying the same amount!
Randy Engle November 07, 2011 at 05:38 PM
I checked my PG&E bills thoroughly. We use a lot of electricity in our house and get into the upper tiers. I confirmed and reconfirmed that using Marin Clean Energy would cost us over $100/month more than just PG&E.
John Ferguson November 08, 2011 at 12:25 AM
Randy, would you be willing to share your mean and max kWh electical usage? For comparison, our house uses an average of 335 kWh and our 2 year max was 516 kWh. I've seen about a 10-20 dollar increase in monthly electric charges using deep green, which is fine with me. We're paying 11.31 cents per kWh used, which seems pretty reasonable to me.
Randy Engle November 08, 2011 at 12:39 AM
John, I'm heading out of town in a few minutes. I'll post all my findings when I return later this week.
rafael s November 08, 2011 at 12:55 AM
Perhaps large hydro (>30MW) is not considered renewable because the state of CA did not want to encourage building new dams to meet renewable energy standards (?). In any event, if you add the 36,000MW of hydro that Marin Clean Energy gets from the TriDam Project to their 27% renewable electricity (renewable according to CA's eligibility criteria), then Marin Clean Energy is still about twice as 'renewable' as PG&E (66% to 31%).
Kevin Moore November 08, 2011 at 03:58 AM
John, I am a regular MEA customer. The lowest tier price is 0.12233. How are you paying less than the bottom rate? November 1st bill.
Diane Furst November 08, 2011 at 05:31 PM
In my opinion rooftop solar is the greenest option available (next to conservation), and prices have come down significantly. I am in the process of installing a photovoltaic system that will generate enough electricity to eliminate all but my bottom two tiers, at a cost of about $0.135 per kWh over a 20-year lease. If you've got a sunny rooftop I highly recommend looking into solar. And FYI, PG&E has filed a proposal with the CPUC to raise prices next year.
John Ferguson November 08, 2011 at 07:20 PM
Perhaps we're comparing apples and oranges - Generation is just one portion of the electricity bill. Distribution is a major component as well and of course we all pay that to PG&E. When I look at my itemized bill, my generation portion that is paid for 297 kWh in Sept/Oct is $13.96 for deep green service. If I had stuck with light green (27% renewable) it would have been $10.99. I paid a $2.97 (or 1 cent per kWh) premium for fully renewable generation. My total bill including distribution, taxes and all other charges for 297 kWh was $48.20. Since the generation cost portion of my bill is essentially 30% of my total electricity cost and the percent above regular PG&E rates is about 10% of that 30%, saying that switching to Marin Clean Energy costs an additional $100 a month means that Randy must be paying somewhere around $3300 a month for electricity. That's the amount you'd have to spend to get to a $100 difference in generated electricity costs between PG&E and MEA. This is probably a simplification because of the rate structures charging more when you exceed baseline by a certain amount, but it's still in the ballpark. Certainly not a concern for most Marin households..
Randy Engle November 09, 2011 at 05:16 AM
John, I'm out of town at the moment and my itemized bill is not available to me. As I said, when I return I'll post a complete itemized breakdown of the bill. Re your comment: "means that Randy must be paying somewhere around $3300 a month" Please don't make any assumptions until I post some facts so that you can make statements with facts behind them, not assumptions and assertions based upon conjecture and incomplete information. Many thanks. Randy Engle
Martin Brookes January 24, 2012 at 02:39 PM
The Marin Clean Energy is very poorly run, billing is inconsistent and I received 4 months of billing in one go not knowing I had been moved over to MCE. We never received the 4 postcards that they say they mailed out. I tried to contact them after 9.00 on a weekday to find mail boxes full and no way to leave a message. Eventually I got through at 11.00 am and spoke with a person who was somewhat helpfull but could not offer answers as to why I got billed over $600 in one bill. They were going to call back..............still waiting and not holding much hope. I have decided to opt out as much as I want to support green energy this seems to be a very poorly run attempt and needs to be more trustworthy for me to sign up. Please look at your energy bill next time you receive it and make sure they are charging you correctly.
Kelly May 12, 2012 at 08:51 PM
MCE is a scam. When I tried to opt out online, their web site said there was a "problem" and I couldn't. So, I had to mail in my opt-out request. Most PG&E customers won't know they are to be automatically switched until it's too late. MCE's letter looked like junk mail and I almost threw it out. But, there should have been a neon leaflet in the PG&E bill I received the next day. Nothing. A friend who lives in Mill Valley says his bill also went up by about $100 a month. I tried to view price comparisons on their web site but I found that also to be confusing and somewhat deceptive. This cost comparison should be required to be in the MCE literature. Very sleazy tactics.
Rico May 13, 2012 at 02:39 AM
Kelly, Anytime a new bureaucracy like MCE is created to be a middleman power broker, there will be huge rate increases. MCE does not generate power, distribute power or handle the revenue collection for the power that we all use in Marin. MCE is in business to mark up all functions of electrical power to create a Cush new money making scam for the chosen few. MCE is not a utility, they have no engineers, no technicians, no troubleshooters and no employees who know anything about electrical power generation and distribution. They are just politicians out to make a fast buck off of the "greenwash" hyperbole. It was the big pipedream of the MMWD to build a desalination plant that would consume $860,000 per month when operating, so, the MMWD benevolently loaned MEA a million dollars of their ratepayers money for start up money. Then, the MMWD had a water surplus and the desalination plant got squelched in court. That's OK, because the MCE electricity accounts that the MMWD has with MCE have cost the ratepayers of the MMWD around $1 million more per year than before the MEA was created. Lots of big money to be made on this scam, that is why I never opted into the MEA, and never will. Cut the fat and middlemen (and women) out of the loop.
Jim Phelps May 27, 2012 at 12:59 AM
http://novato.patch.com/articles/how-much-will-marin-clean-energy-cost-you-86ae89cb

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