Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Marin County Joins The Public Power Play

The trend towards public power must remind PG&E of that old carnival game "Whack a Mole" where kids "whack" moles with a mallet as they pop up randomly and with increasing speed. The latest effort to "pop up" is in Marin County where locals are launcing a communitiy choice aggregation plan called "Marin Clean Energy."

According to the San Francisco Chronicle:

"Under Marin's plan, five years in the making, a joint power authority composed of representatives of all 11 Marin County towns would oversee the program. Officials expect to submit the plan to the California Public Utilities Commission for approval next year.

Ratepayers would have a choice: "light green" or "dark green." Light green customers would get 25 to 50 percent of their energy from "qualified" renewable sources - everything other than large hydropower. PG&E estimates 14 percent of its energy will come from renewable sources this year.

Dark green would offer 100 percent renewables. PG&E would still distribute power and maintain poles and lines; Marin would simply choose other energy generators. (Technically, electrons can't be tagged "green" or "brown" - advocates say demanding renewable sources forces more into the overall grid)."

Not surprisingly, PG&E isn't happy. Calling PG&E "the player that stands to lose the most," the Chronicle notes:

"The company has a long history of successfully staving off public power efforts in San Francisco and elsewhere. This week, the utility settled a dispute with a Central Valley power authority over the company's marketing tactics, which appear to have helped persuade Tulare County and the city of Fresno to stop pursuing local control of their power. Marin officials expect the same onslaught.

"They're throwing up regulatory, legal, political roadblocks," said Tim Rosenfeld, project director for the Marin Energy Management Team"

Similar CCA efforts are underway in San Francisco, Berkeley, and Beverly Hills, and PG&E is locked in a nasty public power fight with the South San Joaquin Irrigation District that featured a recent legal settlement for some ethically questionable tactics by PG&E.