In Episode 68 of The Wendel Forum (originally aired on June 30, 2012, on 960 KNEW AM radio), show moderator Bill Acevedo, chair of Wendel Rosen’s sustainable business practice group, welcomes Councilmember Damon Connolly of San Rafael and Councilmember Tom Butt of Richmond.
Connolly is the Chairman of the Board of Directors for the Marin Energy Authority (MEA). The MEA is the not-for-profit public agency formed by the County of Marin and several Marin cities and towns in 2008. MEA administers the Marin Clean Energy program.
MEA is the first operational example of a Community Choice Aggregation (CCA) program in the state of California. In California, Community Choice Aggregation was developed through legislation (AB 117) in 2002 as a response to the rolling blackouts of several years ago (remember Enron?). It’s a system that allows cities and counties to aggregate the buying power of individual customers within a defined jurisdiction in order to secure alternative energy supply contracts.
MEA’s program is a hybrid to traditional utility models, which might include a municipal utility or privately-owned utility (such as PG&E in Northern California). In MEA’s model, the public agency purchases or produces the energy, but a third-party energy company handles distribution and maintenance of the energy transmission infrastructure.
In 2002, California addressed base renewable energy goals through SB 1078, which set the Renewables Portfolio Standard (RPS). These goals were expanded in 2011 under SB 2. California, under the RPS program, requires investor-owned utilities, electric service providers and CCAs to increase procurement from eligible renewable energy resource to 33% of total procurement by 2020.
MEA’s plan is considerably more ambitious than the state requirement. They plan to get to 100% renewable procurement in the next 10 years. Today they are at 28% (8% more than the current RPS requirement). The program is getting a tremendous response from new renewable energy suppliers, and MEA has initiated an “Open Season” procurement process to manage proposals.
So, how does it work?
When a community joins, all of the residents are included in the CCA program. If they do not want to participate in it, however, they are free to opt out. If they choose to participate, the MEA offers two plan levels – a “Light Green” and a “Dark Green” option. The first delivers energy to customers with 50% coming from renewable energy sources. The latter offers energy to customers that is 100% sourced from renewable energy. The dark green plan costs the average customer $5-10 more per month and currently includes 8% of their customer base.
The City of Richmond is one of the latest cities to join the MEA. So how did a city in Contra Costa County get involved in a program from Marin? City Councilmember Tom Butt explains that Richmond’s General Plan 2030 includes multiple environmental goals, including offering a CCA toRichmond residents and businesses. When analyzing how best to go about implementing a CCA, the City decided it just didn’t make sense to reinvent the wheel, according to Butt. MEA, as a clear leader in the space, was a logical partner. As Richmond comes online, the MEA expects to add about 30,000 new customers – a significant influx of new customers, which will give MEA even more purchasing power with energy producers going forward.
Would you pay $10 more on your energy bill each month to know that the energy was made up of 100% renewable sources such as solar, wind, geothermal and biomass?
Listen to the interview with Councilmembers Connolly and Butt: Episode 68 of The Wendel Forum (27:18 mins; mp3)
Marin Energy Authority: http://www.marinenergyauthority.org/
960 KNEW AM Radio website: http://www.960KNEW.com
Bill Acevedo’s online profile: http://www.wendel.com/wacevedo
Seriously, the DRA makes important points about the effect of the RPS on California’s move to renewable sources of power. In order to meet the 20% threshold by 2010 (with a flexible extension to 2013), California’s utilities put a premium on certainty of project completion over price. Thus, when evaluating two renewable power projects, the utility has an incentive to select the project with the higher cost of power, but the greater likelihood of coming on line. The report, citing information supplied by utilities, lists three factors that are most likely to account for a project’s failure to come on line: inability to get financing, inability to get permits, and lack of transmission capacity.
View the DRA report,
February 16, 2011
In Episode 2 of The Wendel Forum, Dick Lyons shares a brief history of California’s Renewable Portfolio Standards (RPS), or the amount of energy that a public utility must produce via renewable energy sources. California’s three major utilities were required to produce at least 20% of their energy from renewable sources by the end of 2010. Tune in to hear how close they got and how California stacks up against the RPS goals of other states. Now we’ve got new goals to reach.
What are your thoughts on how California can best achieve these goals?