Novato is going to farm out an independent review to assess the risks and benefits of joining the Marin Energy Authority, a three-year-old power company that supplies electricity to households from renewable resources.
Green-minded people in Novato do not have the choice to buy their power from the authority because the council voted two years ago not to take part in the joint powers authority, and those residents have continued to pressure the council to reconsider its choice. Eight municipalities in Marin voted to give their citizens that choice in 2009, and the green power started flowing into homes last year.
“I think it’s time for us to have an evaluation,” Councilwoman Carole Dillon-Knutson said at the July 12 council meeting.
The council voted 3-2 — with Madeline Kellner, Denise Athas and Dillon-Knutson in favor and Jeanne MacLeamy and Pat Eklund opposed — to contract for a study to be done on the issue at a cost of no more than $10,000 and place the subject on a future council agenda once the study is completed.
Marin Energy Authority, a nonprofit formed by the County of Marin and seven local municipalities, serves as an alternative to Pacific Gas and Electric Co. With its stated goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions, the authority was created in 2008 after six years of research and public discussion. The power, delivered by PG&E lines, comes in “light green” and “dark green” blends, with dark coming from 100 percent renewable resources.
The council members said they’d like to know more about where the energy authority gets its electric power, Novato’s potential commitments to the energy’s board, the opt-in and opt-out clauses, a price and rate comparison of electricity, and how many people have gone back to PG&E.
Athas said she was concerned about staff time requirements and that $10,000 was a lot of money to spend on a study, “but we have a lot of people in Novato who want us to look at this again.” She said she wanted to know the financial commitments of the city to join.
Kellner said most of the information given to Novato two years ago was provided by the Marin Energy Authority, and now is the time, she says, to have an independent third-party assessment of how things are going.
MacLeamy seemed the most resistant to making Marin Energy Authority a high-priority item. After listing the general plan’s housing element, discussions on making the annual city budget more sustainable and the plans for the downtown city offices, she said, “Novato has a lot on its plate … We are the gatekeepers to keep the city out of trouble, and we need to make sure there are no financial risks.”
Eklund agreed with MacLeamy, saying, “We have too many irons in the fire. … There are host of other things that are higher priorities.”
To learn more about how Marin Energy Authority supplies power to customers, click here.
To learn more about Marin Energy Authority rates and how they compare with PG&E, click here.