Global Warming - Is Marin Clean Energy Cooking its GHG books? Two Interesting Cases

Marin Clean Energy's benefit is a reduction of greenhouse gas (GHG) from the energy it sells to Marin. But MCE's numbers don't add up, nor does its record support what it's been telling Marin.

Marin Clean Energy has a problem with its greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.  Its annual GHG reductions don’t reconcile. 

Case 1 -- The diminishing story of MCE’s Annual Greenhouse Gas Reduction Claims

Jan. 2011 Sept. 2011 April 2012 Nov. 2012 Dec. 2012

Larkspur Workshop

Mill Valley City Council Presentation Novato Community Meeting (Q&A)  MCE website        MCE email 175,000 tons "Our reduction goal" 68,595 tons 15,420 tons 15,420 tons disavows claiming "annual" GHG reductions note (a) note (b,c,d,e) note (f) note (g)

GHG Annual reductions are shrinking when they should be growing

A year after MCE’s Mill Valley presentation in 2011 MCE had more customers and was presumably purchasing more “clean” energy to serve them.  Why aren’t MCE’s annual GHG reductions increasing?  Why are they going down and now no longer disclosed?

In November 2012, MCE had its greatest number of customers, and was purchasing a greater amount of “clean” energy to serve them.  MCE was also increasing its renewable energy supply from 27% to 50% (Board approved Feb 2, 2011).  Given this, its “annual GHG reduction” should be enormous.  MCE’s public record indicates the opposite.     

Case 2 – The Nursery vs. the Airport

                                     Relative claims of solar farms

Location System Size # of homes GHG reduction San Rafael Airport .972 megawatt 280 1,255 tons/yr.  note (h) Green Point Nursery "a megawatt" 400 53,000 tons/yr.  note (i)

Claims associated with the completed San Rafael airport solar project and the proposed Green Point Nursery solar farm are as follows:   

1)  The Nursery project claims it reduces GHGs by 53,000 tons per year, which is 3 times as many GHGs as MCE’s advertised total annual GHG reduction in Nov 2012 of 15,420 tons.  How is this possible when Green Point would only be “a megawatt” compared to the many green megawatts supposedly in MCE’s portfolio?   

2)  The Green Point Nursery claims to eliminate 53,000 tons per year, which is more than 40 times as many GHGs as the comparably sized San Rafael Airport solar project. How?

3)  The Green Point project claims to power 400 homes, which is 120 more than the comparably sized San Rafael airport solar farm claims.  How is that possible?

Since MCE’s inception, its annual GHG reductions have represented the essence of its mission and have been used to justify its existence.  

If these GHG issues trouble you, you may opt out at 1-888-632-3674. 


(a) City of Larkspur “Workshop Concerning Marin Energy Authority” September 15, 2011, attachment  “Introducing Marin Clean Energy,” dated 1/24/2011, p. 5 of 15.  MEA also identifies 175,000 tons as its GHG reduction for 2011 in its PowerPoint presentation “Marin Clean Energy ‘Renewable by Choice’ A program of the Marin Energy Authority” dated March 2010, p. 15 of 20.

(b) Marin Energy Authority presentation of Marin Clean Energy to Mill Valley City Council, dated 9/06/2011, p. 2 of 7.  Does not include MEA’s subsequent enrollment of the bulk of Marin residences (Phase 2b), who were enrolled in late summer/early fall 2012. 

(c) MEA included the same claim of 68,595 tons annual GHG reduction in copies of its Marin Energy Authority – Marin Clean Energy PowerPoint distributed to council members of Ross (9/15/2011), Larkspur, (9/21/2011), and Novato (9/27/2011) when marketing to these municipalities to join the MEA Joint Powers Authority.  Does not include MEA’s subsequent enrollment of the bulk of Marin residences (Phase 2b), who were enrolled in late summer/early fall 2012.   

(d) City of Larkspur “Workshop Concerning Marin Energy Authority” September 15, 2011, attachment Marin Clean Energy Update – July 2011: “Marin Clean Energy is reducing the amount of CO2 generated in Marin by 68,595 tons of CO2 annually, more than any other reduction effort implemented to-date in Marin County.”   Does not include MEA’s subsequent enrollment of the bulk of Marin residences (Phase 2b), who were enrolled in late summer/early fall 2012.   

(e) Dawn Weisz (MEA) email to Town of Ross Town Manager Gary Broad, dated July 8, 2011, Subject: Clean Energy Amnesty.  “...[MEA is] already achieving a GHG reduction of 68,000 tons each year, a greater reduction than all GHG-reducing programs, countywide, combined.”   

(f) MEA website https://marincleanenergy.info/electric-services

image dated November 2, 2012 (see attachment 1).  MEA revised this page mid-November 2012 so it is no longer possible to read MCE’s “annual GHG reduction.”  Also see note (g).     

(g) MEA email (Simon Loos), dated 12/07/2012, Subject: annual GHG reduction.  “MEA does not claim an annual GHG reduction rate; the reduction varies by year according to best available data, our power portfolio, and the size of our customer base.” 

(h) Marin Independent Journal, 10/24/2012

1,138 metric tons claimed.  Metric ton: ton conversion = (2,205 / 2,000).   Therefore, 1,138 x (2,205/2,000) = 1,255 tons (U.S.)

(i) Marin Independent Journal, 10/23/2012

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Lloyd February 09, 2013 at 05:32 AM
MCE is a perfect feel-good solution for those that aren't interested in GHG reduction just the political correctness of being a member. I believe MCE could have simply charged more for nothing & given each of its customers 3 "I am Green Stickers" to put on their car bumpers and one for the house. It's governing board is doing quite well paying themselves for this ponzi scheme anywhere from $250k to $500k per person. They simply purchase green energy certificates. The certificates are as valuable as the bundled mortgage the wall street sharks used to nearly bankrupt the country. How about a PUC or honest third party investigation of MCE. Let the light shine on this travesty and then we can make an informed decision. I suspect after the numbers are no longer massaged we will find out we are paying for some slick marketing sales scam.
Michael February 09, 2013 at 06:25 PM
I am amazed so many fell for this scam when it was first presented. What a game is being played all in the name of 'clean energy'. The last thing we really needed was another PG&E business purporting to be oh so clean and oh so different. But we obviously did need something like MCE for those who need that feel good view and politically correct feeling in their lives. Let's all jump on the global warming parade. You feel better now switching from that evil PG&E don't you? MCE produces NOTHING. They are another bureaucracy taking yet another cut out of the middle. Why do so many fall for this? And the politicians call this 'creating jobs'. Ha!
Jim Phelps February 09, 2013 at 10:46 PM
“MCE Representative,” The numbers issued by MEA are alarming. In May 2011 MEA’s Dawn Weisz provided a national emissions factor to Mill Valley Mayor and future MEA Board member Ken Wachtel. MEA had no business citing a national factor that’s weighted by eastern coal emissions -- factoring off this skews MEA’s GHG reduction claims and gives the impression MEA is achieving fictitiously high GHG reductions that may apply to Kentucky but not California. You write about MEA’s “actual” emissions reductions, and “standing by the claim.” But your GHG reduction numbers, homogenized at best, are unsubstantiated because loads and corresponding generator dispatch locations for balancing the grid vary throughout the day, making “actual” claims impossible to confirm. So MEA defaults to generic factors. If you know this then you are apparently misleading people here. If you don’t know this, then you are in the wrong business. If the engineering firms that design emissions abatement equipment tossed around guaranteed emissions factors in the manner of MEA, they would find themselves getting sued by every power company for malperformance... and then they would be out of business.
Jim Phelps February 09, 2013 at 10:50 PM
MEA's debacle in Rocklin: http://millvalley.patch.com/blog_posts/public-agencies-at-odds-with-mea
Bill McGee February 10, 2013 at 06:04 AM
Jim – according to the IJ article you quoted, the reason the CPUC does not have authority over MCE rates is because MCE is a PUBLIC authority while PG&E is investor owned (in other words, the authority of the CPUC has nothing to do with your definition of a utility…according to the article you cited). That same IJ story also noted that PG&E raised their rates by 12% on Jan 1. I suppose that it should not come as a surprise to me that competition would actually help justify a rate increase by PG&E. I opted out of MCE from the beginning because it was widely accepted that PG& E rates would lower. However, I find choosing PG&E over anybody to be a tough pill to swallow given their track record so I may need to re-examine that soon.


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