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Marin Clean Energy Q&A Tonight at City Hall

You have the power to switch power companies. Do you want more 'green' renewable electricity or will you stick with PG&E?

Ah, the power to change our own power supply ... or the power to keep the same power as before.

the Marin Energy Authority last September, and now letters are appearing in mailboxes throughout the city saying that ratepayers are eligible to purchase "green" energy starting in July 2012.

At issue: As per state law, residents will automatically be switched to Marin Clean Energy electricity  unless they opt out and stick with Pacific Gas and Electric Co.

Staff members from the authority will host a community meeting at 6:30 p.m. Thursday at to ask questions about the Light Green option, electricity from 50 percent renewable resources (sunlight, water or wind), or the more expensive 100 percent renewable Dark Green option.

"Staying with MCE as your power provider gives you the opportunity to create positive change right now by curbing global warming, reducing greenhouse gas emissions by adding more renewable energy to the grid and shifting away from global reliance on fossil fuels," reads the mailer.

Rates are affordable and billing will still come from PG&E, the authority said. Ratepayers have 60 days to opt out and remain with PG&E or else be subject to a $5 residential termination fee ($25 for commercial customers).

Want to learn more before making your decision? Attend Thursday's meeting, check out the Marin Clean Energy website or call 888-632-3674.

Tina McMillan April 14, 2012 at 02:51 AM
Kenny The name calling is disappointing. It is usually an indication of a closed mind. You haven't fired PGE, they will still develop, maintain and deliver your energy. Remember this is a program that purchases energy credits. It doesn't mean that you are busting up a monopoly. It only means taxpayers will pay in the end if the model fails. If MEA were a cleaner source of energy and a product of the free market I would agree with you, but it's not. Remember Grey Davis and the Enron scandal of 2000 and 2001. That cost us all in spite of government regulation. Read through the posts, follow the links and make up your own mind. There is lots of information online about Electricite de France and Shell Oil that does not support a green agenda. Again, genuine market competition is great. This is something all together different.
Kenny B April 14, 2012 at 03:10 PM
Sorry Tina. Guilty of "politically profiling", not name calling. I am hard pressed to support a company that has cost California state taxpayers bllions of dollars, contaminated our environment, responsible for loss of lives due to profit saving measures, held back alternative energy programs., etc. I will look at your links, since you made the effort.
Barbara Madrid April 14, 2012 at 03:26 PM
I did not attend Thursday night because I didn't want to hear MEA leave out the key parts of this scenario. MEA is pulling the green wool over everyone's eyes- their green status comes purely from the purchase of RECs- they EFFECTIVELY do nothing more than purchase the actual power that PG&E brings to your home/business, bills you for, maintains lines for, etc. It's just another bureaucracy layer- Tina's information and position has been accurate throughout this thread- you don't have to be a utility employee to understand if you know how to read and reason. The green people think MEA is a savior but that's what THEY want to see- not what it is. Wake up people, you're being taken for a ride!
Jim Oser April 14, 2012 at 03:44 PM
The official MCE and MCA sites: http://marincleanenergy.info/ http://www.marinenergyauthority.com/ Another point of view: http://www.meatruth.org/
Tina McMillan April 14, 2012 at 04:01 PM
Kenny B MEA is contracting with Shell Oil and Electricite de Francais. Electricite de Francais is the second largest utility company in the world and is the primary supplier of nuclear power in Europe. Here are two links regarding Shell Oil's recent activities in Nigeria. http://www.businessweek.com/ap/2012-04/D9U3IHR01.htm http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/03/23/britain-nigeria-shell-idUSL6E8EN58V20120323 When you look at any of these mega corporations you must understand they carry baggage. MEA looks small but the credits they purchase in order to say they are greener than PGE are from even larger corporations with dubious histories. Rather than playing a shell game (no pun intended) I would like to see the PUC work with PGE and Southern CA Edison to continue to rebuild and maintain the electrical delivery system and to create local alternate energy sources. Since San Bruno that is exactly what PGE has been doing. To fix the problem we have to work on it not change the players. Sonoma County started a program to fund local solar years ago. They provide low cost long term loans so you can rehab your home. Marin could have done the same without going to the expense of creating yet another pseudo government entity. California state is broke, health and human services, our biggest budget next to schools, is being drastically cut and our Supervisors spend their time on projects like MEA. It is all about image and appearance.
Knony H April 18, 2012 at 03:48 PM
I just wanted to thank everyone for all their posts. After reading the posts and all of the linked information I now feel well equipped to make a choice. It seems obvious to me that if you want to choose an electric company which is best for the environment and does not have a bloated payroll for its higher ups, the choice is clear. PG&E. Thank you.
Demosthenes April 18, 2012 at 04:38 PM
PG&E Pays execs Millions of dollars per year. http://blogs.kqed.org/newsfix/2011/08/09/incoming-pge-ceo-to-be-one-of-highest-paid-in-country/ http://turn.org/article.php?id=1653 Former CEO who oversaw company during the pipeline burst and several other disasters- retires with a $35,000,000 package. http://www.sfbg.com/politics/2011/04/21/pge-ceo-peter-darbee-stepping-down
Tina McMillan April 18, 2012 at 06:04 PM
Demosthenes So if you compare Electricite Francais and Shell Oil which are the energy providers of MEA to PGE which is the greater good or the lesser evil?
Demosthenes April 18, 2012 at 09:15 PM
Neither are inherently good or evil. The projects which are funded by MEA are to be low carbon generation projects, as i understand it, that is the main function MEA serves. If low carbon intensity is a priority for you (which based on your passed comments it does not appear to be) then MEA would be a way to spend your energy dollars toward that priority. MEA "buying energy" from Shell makes shell more green, since future investments or additions to the generation portfolio funded with MEA dollars will go strictly to renewable projects. You don't have to agree. I'm content to have a choice.
Tamkea Washington April 19, 2012 at 06:20 AM
I like Al Gore, but I don't like that he is a hypocrite. His lights in and around his mansion takes up more energy than all of our homes put together. MEA will cost the consumer more in the long run and then you will have to PAY to Opt out. I wish it was truly "green" and then I would support it, but in reality it is just giving us dirtier energy and supporting SHELL OIL. OPT OUT and send a message that we want to be able to OPT IN on these decisions in the future. Thank you Tina and Barbara for doing a good job of explaining about MEA.
Tina McMillan April 19, 2012 at 06:55 PM
Demosthenes I respectfully disagree. PGE will continue to increase its renewable portfolio, just as it had been doing prior to the inception of MEA. It has the people with the expertise to properly vet projects and continue to build and maintain services. MEA's purchase of renewable energy credits is a red herring. It does not green up the production of energy. It uses the all mighty dollar to create that impression. I would prefer to spend the time actually building renewables. I believe PGE is best equipped to do that. MEA is not regulated by the PUC. Our government agencies have shown time and time again that lack of oversight results in poor choices. Just look at the issues with the General Services Administration (G.S.A.) To have a choice you need to use the free market. MEA didn't give me a choice. I was forced to Opt Out. The legislature in its infinite foolishness set it up that way because they depend on people's apathy. I am not interested in growing government until they can reign in spending and manage the projects on hand. Take a look at Al Coddington's article in this week's Advance about MEA: http://marinscope.com/articles/2012/04/18/novato_advance/news/business/doc4f8f1357b9d88012881434.txt Then tell me that it is a "choice" and that it is the better choice.
Demosthenes April 19, 2012 at 07:38 PM
MEA *is* regulated by the PUC. http://www.cpuc.ca.gov/PUC/energy/Retail+Electric+Markets+and+Finance/070430_ccaggregation.htm there is no parallel between the GSA and MEA, but there is plenty of real bad history on the part of PGE. MEA is not government- its existence does not grow the size of government. it is what We as a community decided to create to put our money where our mouths are. is opting out not a choice? you can chose to stay or go. you have clearly chosen to go, and to bad mouth those of us who choose to stay for no good purpose.
Kevin April 19, 2012 at 08:06 PM
Why do I need to opt out of something I didn't ask for? I've got no problem with PG&E. I do have a problem with me being opted in to something I don't want.
Brent Ainsworth (Editor) April 19, 2012 at 08:13 PM
I mentioned this earlier, but it's worth reiterating: The opt in vs. opt out issue is really a state law issue. Novato City Council members had real problems with that evaluating the topic last year.
Tina McMillan April 20, 2012 at 03:00 AM
Demosthenes No, MEA is not regulated by the PUC "MEA is governed by a twelve-member Board of Directors representing each of the participating Marin jurisdictions which include the City of Belvedere, Town of Corte Madera, Town of Fairfax, City of Larkspur, County of Marin, City of Mill Valley, City of Novato, Town of Ross, Town of San Anselmo, City of San Rafael, City of Sausalito, and Town of Tiburon. The Board conducts its business in monthly meetings that are always open to the public."
Tina McMillan April 20, 2012 at 03:08 AM
Demosthenes Yes, MEA is a public agency "The Marin Energy Authority (MEA) is a not-for-profit public agency that was created in December 2008 following six years of careful study and development." MEA does grow pensions and other long term debts which will become the responsibility of the cities and counties that join the organization should there be a collapse in the agency itself. PGE still provides and maintains the energy we receive. "MCE only replaces PG&E’s charge for the procurement of electricity, also known as ‘generation’ so that you can get cleaner, greener energy. Everything else, including your billing, electricity delivery, and power line maintenance will still be provided by PG&E." Cleaner and greener are red herrings; without the energy credits, the energy from MEA is the same as that of PGE's without the back breaking work of providing real jobs to bay area residents. The real bad history, past and present, certainly lies with Shell Oil and Elecitricite Francaise so to condemn PGE is more than hypocritical it is ludicrous.
Demosthenes April 20, 2012 at 04:16 PM
regulation and governance are completely separate concepts. MEA is governed (like many companies) by a board of directors or governors. In this case- the board is made up of representatives from each of the member cities. this board will make decisions about the way MEA runs by resolution and policy. they have the power to hire and fire the execs. as the regulator, PUC requires information from MEA on its compliance with state laws concerning the financial operations of a utility. It can hold MEA financially responsible for breaking state laws (so individuals don't have to sue them, but still can)
Demosthenes April 20, 2012 at 04:41 PM
Tina it is well documented that the cities bear no financial risk in the event of financial problems with MEA. MEA is set up as a joint power authority. the cities are in no way responsible for the pension obligations or any unpaid debts. this is basic stuff.
Tina McMillan April 21, 2012 at 02:56 AM
Demosthenes Here is a link to the August 2011 bill that includes the reference to the PUC. If you read the bill in its entirety the primary purpose is to make certain that the PUC does not allow PGE to interfere with MEA. "Rules of conduct" are not the same criteria used by the PUC to regulate PGE or Southern CA Edison the actual providers of the majority of energy throughout California. http://www.leginfo.ca.gov/pub/01-02/bill/asm/ab_0101-0150/ab_117_bill_20020924_chaptered.pdf "The bill would require a community choice aggregator to file an implementation plan with the Public Utilities Commission in order for the commission to determine a cost-recover mechanism to be imposed on the community choice aggregator to prevent a shifting of costs to an electrical corporation’s bundled customers." http://www.leginfo.ca.gov/pub/11-12/bill/sen/sb_0751 0800/sb_790_cfa_20110909_100109_sen_floor.html "Nothing in the statute directs the CPUC to regulate the CCA's program except to the extent that its program elements may affect utility operations and the rates and services to other customers." Please remember this is a public agency, therefore, if it fails ultimately the taxpayers will pay the cost.
Demosthenes April 23, 2012 at 04:59 PM
Tina are we reading the same document? AB117 are the set of regulations MEA must abide by. It names the PUC as MEA's regulator. If you read the document in its entirety, you will read a mechanism for ensuring the interests of the public are protected from any company engaging in energy delivery, both corporation and community choice aggregator. SB 790- "Nothing in the statute directs the CPUC to regulate the CCA's program except to the extent that its program elements may affect utility operations and the rates and services to other customers" translated= PUC *will regulate* Marin Clean Energy so that its operations do not cost PGE or PGE's customers any money (other than the obvious loss of monopoly). so what are you complaining about???? are you a PGE stockholder?
Tina McMillan April 23, 2012 at 05:49 PM
D. PGE rates are set by the CPUC. "Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) yesterday asked the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) for permission to streamline its system of residential electric rates next year to make them simpler and more equitable for customers across usage levels." 2010 MEA rates are set by their 12 member board. "The Marin Energy Authority Board of Directors sets electric generation rates for Marin Clean Energy customers. We value public participation and transparency, which is why our rates are developed, discussed, evaluated and approved at public meetings right here in Marin." 2012 I do not own stock in PGE but I apparently have some skin in MEA because as a taxpayer I have been opted in to their program with the explanation that our local government has decided to go into the energy business. I would have preferred to vote on this. I don't think the council should have joined MEA without first letting Novato residents vote.
Tina McMillan April 23, 2012 at 05:50 PM
continued I have explained my complaints through my many posts on Patch; you are aware of them without my reiterating. Now it's your turn to answer a question. What is your real name? It would be nice to exchange comments with someone willing to stand up for what they believe. Perhaps we know each other? We don't have to agree on issues concerning MEA and PGE to have a reasonable dialogue. Personally, I would rather stay with PGE and streamline the development of greener energy resources within California than use any purchasing of REC's/energy credits. REC's are ludicrous. They provide the illusion of being accountable not the reality. If the legislature and MEA had not used the Opt Out model my criticisms would be far less harsh. Rigging the game is not playing fairly.
Demosthenes April 23, 2012 at 07:24 PM
T- PGE comes up with its own pricing scheme and then PUC approves it if it adheres to regulations and rules written on behalf of Californians, exactly like MEA. In the case of MEA, the pricing scheme is done publicly by a board made up of representatives from each member city. In the case of PGE it is done by execss on behalf of the stockholders. which do you think is better for consumers? In both cases it is reviewed by PUC (the regulator). I agree that REC's are not as preferable to local generation. but the same NIMBY attitude that chased George Lucas out of Marin will make development of any large scale, low carbon generation project impossible. the reason RECs work is because greenhouse gasses are a global, cumulative contaminant. RECs are not effective if they do not accelerate the development of low carbon generation or the decommission of high carbon sources. We'll have to wait a few years to see if this is the case, although it seems like these RECs are structured to be effective. If we can reduce the amount of CO2 generated in any part of the world, we can reduce the potential warming here. I've gathered from reading you posts on patch that this is not very important to you. PGE will develop greener sources of energy, but not out of any sort of concern for the environment or the people that live close to their generation plants. They will do so only because they are required to by law. They will do this whether all of Novato opts out of MEA or not.
Tina McMillan April 23, 2012 at 07:52 PM
D. Assuming that PGE has no real concern for the environment makes little sense. To stay competitive, particularly in the Bay Area, you offer what your clients want to purchase. That is the economic model on which successful private companies are built. Your inherent dislike for PGE but your ability to pass over the larger scale wrong doings of Shell Oil or the nuclear reach of Electricite Francaise boggles the mind. You can't have it both ways. Isn't it easier to just say that you like MEA and therefore whatever they do is fine with you but that you dislike PGE and therefore whatever they do will be problematic for you? And as I asked in the last post, your real name is????
Demosthenes April 23, 2012 at 09:30 PM
T- That's the beauty of state sanctioned monopolies, it doesn't matter what the client wants if there is only one store to get it from. Competition requires more than one vendor. If we agree that competition is food then why is MEA so bad? You know what boggles the mind? Your saying competition is good as long as there is only one competitor. Your saying MEA is not regulated and then linking to two of the regulations which cover it. Your saying cities are on the hook for debts and pensions despite MEA being started as a joint powers authority specifically excluding cities from responsibilities concerning debts and pensions. your taking issue with my likes and dislikes (which i never expressed) while stating your own. How about this? we've both heard each other's arguments and neither of us has changed their minds (despite your providing evidence to contradict your own arguments). This will be my last post on the subject so you can go back to posting erroneous information about MEA and PGE at will. I don't know what my name has to do with an argument based on facts. It seems like every time someone starts losing a debate on patch they start wanting to turn it into some personal thing.
Demosthenes April 23, 2012 at 09:41 PM
*competition is good, not food
Tina McMillan April 24, 2012 at 02:10 AM
D. Word.
Kenny B April 24, 2012 at 03:08 AM
"Assuming that PGE has no real concern for the environment makes little sense. To stay competitive, particularly in the Bay Area, you offer what your clients want to purchase. That is the economic model on which successful private companies are built." Tina, PG&E poisoning California and it's water ways is fact. Those people in San Bruno may have a different take as well, when PG&E's negligence cost lives and property. When you talk about opting out, PG&E forcing Smart Meter's on their customers was not forth right. I am going to give MEA a chance, and hopefully since PGE will have competition, consumers will win. I rather PG&E went away.
Tina McMillan April 24, 2012 at 06:10 AM
PGE can't go away as its services are required to create, transmit and maintain the power you continue to receive. I am certain the people of Nigeria feel the same way about Shell Oil that you do about PGE. Smart Meters were about people controlling their own energy use by becoming aware of its impact. They are currently being used throughout Europe and Asia. When government has to stack the deck by creating an opt out only program there has got to be something wrong with the cards. In this case it is the cost. MEA can't compete with PGE just like PGE can't compete with Shell Oil. In the end the tax payers will be held liable just as they were in 2000 and 2001 when the CPUC would not allow PGE to charge prices commensurate with the cost of energy and so both PGE and California lost billions to Enron. Digging their way out of that hole has proved costly, mostly to tax payers, so now we take the same company that we just got done bailing out and instead of using regulation and oversight we create a competitor that buys from an even larger corporation with an international record of wrongdoing that makes PGE look like a tiny, tiny child by comparison. This is the height of insanity. It just gives people the idea that they are making the planet greener by avoiding self responsibility for conservation and regulation.
Tina McMillan April 24, 2012 at 06:11 AM
continued Imagine if we didn't distract ourselves with these kinds of measures what could be done with the CPUC setting up parameters for energy regulation and distribution. It could be a win/win for stockholders and taxpayers (often the same people) if we were to make PGE into a formidable provider of renewable energy. PGE all ready provides jobs to bay area residents, how many more jobs could they provide with the money to invest in renewables. We don't need community choice aggregation to make a difference. Let's see how we do with more mouths to feed and less money to live on when we create competitors in an industry where prices are all ready determined by state regulation. What's the definition of insanity…..

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