After 10 years of battling incumbent utilities, Marin Clean Energy became California’s first operational community choice aggregation (CCA) authority in 2010. Already, local ratepayers can opt to get 100 percent of their electricity from renewable resources.
CCA offers an option for cities, counties, and collaborations to opt out of the traditional role of energy consumers. Instead, they can become the local retail utility, buying electricity in bulk and selecting their power providers on behalf of their citizens in order to find lower prices or cleaner energy (or even reduce energy demand). Marin Clean Energy started operations last year:
“When it launched last fall, Marin Energy Authority’s goal was to offer 20 percent renewable energy to its customers,” said interim director Dawn Weisz. “We were able to offer 27.5 percent compared to the state-mandated 20 percent.” The state recently increased the mandate to one third. PG&E has about 17 percent under contract, according to Ms. Weisz.
Customers can also opt for the “deep green,” 100 percent renewable service for a 10 percent premium.
Marin Clean Energy not only contracts for a higher portion of renewable energy than PG&E, it’s trying to increase its share of local, distributed generation:
“We are filling a niche market for mid-sized renewable energy generation in the 20 to 60 megawatt range,” said Ms. Weisz … “When we went out to solicit renewable power offers, Pacific Gas & Electric told us we would not get any bids. We were looking for 40 megawatts. We were offered over 600. Almost all was solar.”
The energy authority even offers a small-scale feed-in tariff program, allowing any customer to become a small renewable energy generator with a long-term contract. However, unlike the highly successful German feed-in tariff program, the prices for Marin’s program are based on time of generation, rather than the cost.
The local “utility” is also trying to maximize energy efficiency. Currently, a public benefits fund pools ratepayer dollars for energy efficiency programs run by PG&E. However, such programs tend to work against the bottom line of the utility, but not against Marin’s CCA.
Marin Clean Energy thinks it can do a better job and create more local jobs with the money.
It’s a promising start for California’s first community choice authority.