With the Novato City Council’s narrow approval Tuesday, residents in the city limits will have that choice as of next spring.
The decision prompted hollers and applause at City Hall just a few minutes before midnight. Several dozen die-hards hung out late to await the verdict.
The decision came six months to the day after Marin Energy Authority’s chairman and spiritual leader, Marin County Supervisor Charles McGlashan, brought on by a rare disease.
“I believe in giving everyone a choice,” Councilwoman Carole–Dillon Knutson said. “I thought we should be part of it from the beginning so we could draft the bylaws and guide the proposals, but we were not. … I think Marin Energy is operating in the residents’ best interest, and I think PG&E is operating in its stockholders’ best interests. It’s time we go forward with some competition.”
Dillon-Knutson made the motion for the city to joint the joint powers authority that it opted not to join in 2008 based on a prevailing wait-and-see viewpoint of the council. In July of this year, the council and revisit the decision.
Just days after Ross decided to join the Marin Energy Authority, Novato Councilwoman Denise Athas seconded Dillon-Knutson’s motion and Mayor Madeline Kellner joined in, security a majority over Pat Eklund and Jeanne MacLeamy.
Novato voted to join during an amnesty period at no cost to the city.
Marin Energy Authority Executive Officer Dawn Weisz said residents should start receiving mailers about the impending choice in April 2012 and would be automatically switched over in July. Households will receive about several chances to opt out and stick with PG&E for free before that time; it’ll be a $5 charge if someone backs out after that.
Marin Energy Authority, which runs Marin Clean Energy, was set up to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and offer residents a choice to purchase power from renewable sources such as sunshine and wind. It started offering two grades of power in May 2010: “light green” (from 27 percent renewables) and “deep green” (100 percent). Bills are sent to ratepayers via PG&E.
Weisz said the Marin Energy Authority leads the state in renewable energy supply and has won awards from agencies such as the EPA, the state Legislature and the Marin Builders Association.
With Novato signing up, every municipality in Marin has now joined the authority except Corte Madera and Larkspur.
Weisz said 20 percent of residents in cities that joined the authority chose to stick with PG&E during the first phase of registration in spring 2010. About 5,000 more customers were brought online in August and the opt-out rate was just below 10 percent, she said.
There were 22 people who filled out cards to speak about the issue Tuesday, and 16 of them urged the council to vote in favor of joining the Marin Energy Authority. Among them were former council member Susan Stompe, Ross councilman Chris Martin and several members of Sustainable Novato.
Marla Fields said she recently had to purchase a furnace at her home and was upset that she couldn’t qualify for the $500 rebate from Marin Energy because Novato had not joined the authority.
“We would have the opportunity to purchase 100 percent renewable energy. PG&E does not offer that choice,” she said before the council. “I don’t want you to deny me of having that choice.”
Eklund and MacLeamy both said they support clean energy and providing choice before explaining why they voted no. Eklund said it was because of the confusing opt-out system rather than a preferred opt-in system. MacLeamy she disliked the way the state set up its community choice aggregation process where cities have to vote to give ratepayers a choice.
Kellner, who voted no on joining the authority in 2008, said she changed her mind because there are more assurances and paperwork supporting how the energy company is working. Athas said she was initially concerned about financial risks to joining a joint powers authority but heard so many good things and decided it was time to give residents the choice.