Marin County kicks PG&E to the curb

February 4, 2010 12:00:00 AM PST
Marin County is about to go where no others have gone before. It is changing the way it gets electricity, which means Pacific Gas & Electric is getting kicked to the curb -- at least that's the plan. PG&E, however, will not pull the plug without a fight.

It is the start of a new beginning in Marin County. Thursday night, the Marin Energy Authority voted to dump PG&E and sign a new contract with Shell Energy North America.

Under the new deal, PG&E will still transmit power to Marin County customers, but Shell will provide it. Roughly 25 percent will come from renewable energy sources, which is nearly double what PG&E currently provides.

"I just wanted to say thanks. Beautiful job," said Barbara George from Women's Energy Matters.

Environmental advocates could not be happier with the board's decision.

The Marin Energy Authority says rates will remain the same unless customers request that more of their power come from renewable energy sources. Customers can also opt out and remain with PG&E if they want to.

"There's a lot of support in Marin and my guess is that there'll be a low opt-out rate to stay with PG&E because your power rates will stay the same," said Jonathan Leone from the Marin Energy Authority.

But PG&E is playing hardball. It is threatening not to deliver the electricity over its power lines. It is also funding a June ballot initiative that would make it harder for any municipality to do the same thing in the future.

"We just want to make sure that our customers have a voice in that decision. And we want to make sure their hard-earned tax dollars, especially at a time when those are falling short, are in fact invested in the way they want it to be," said PG&E spokesperson Katie Romans.

Many Marin County residents are not buying it. They are urging PG&E to back off.

"Stop, if you think this is such a disaster, let us try, let us fail and back off. We're like 1 percent of your market," said Bolinas resident Megan Matson.

Barring the unexpected, customers will be getting their new electricity as early as May. It will affect all of Marin County except Corte Madera, Larkspur, Novato and Ross.


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