Marin County begins clean energy program

May 7, 2010 6:56:59 PM PDT
There are 6,500 homes and businesses that will begin receiving electricity Friday through Marin County's clean energy program.

Marin County's new Energy Authority threw a symbolic switch on Friday afternoon, beginning the flow of greener sourced energy to 6,500 customers who have chosen to alter their electrical mix.

About 25 percent of the electricity flowing into their homes will come from green or renewable sources.

"We think we have a moral imperative to the Earth," Shawn Marshall, who serves as vice-chairman of the Marin Energy Authority said.

Local communities are now empowered to purchase power at a higher renewable content.

"In Marin's case, we will partner with PG&E in a hybrid fashion so that we buy the power, and they continue to do what they do well. They deliver it, do the billing, and customers see no difference," Marshall said.

The 6,500 homes in Phase I represent a small portion of Marin's 80,000 potential users. Eight of 10 Marin communities joined in to purchase the electricity, but not all of their residents did.

In San Anselmo, Connie Rodgers stayed with PG&E.

"They do a good job. They win awards for green energy. The law mandates that they produce more green energy," she said.

Rodgers resents the state Legislature's authorization of such community choice programs in 2002, nor is she happy that when the MEA contacted her, she had to opt out of the program, not in, even though she supports the concept of greener energy.

"I feel like somehow government needed to come in and take over. And they keep taking over different aspects of our life. It's wrong," she said.

Advocates of the program believe that local communities buying more green energy will drive the market, allowing faster expansion.

"Well the actual mix of power that comes to your house or business doesn't matter," Dan Kammen, of UC Berkeley's Renewable Energy Institute said. "It's what are the rates you can get for clean energy projects. The more you demand, the better your rate."


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