Mayor, Others Introduce New Environmental Initiative

San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo, other city officials and community environmental advocates presented an initiative this morning designed to meet international goals laid out by the Paris climate agreement as well as local goals of sustainable water supply.

In 2017, many cities and counties all across California voiced their protest to President Donald Trump’s announcement of the U.S. withdrawal from the Paris Agreement.

Liccardo was one of many Bay Area mayors who signed the We Are Still In movement promise, a document tagged by more than 2,000 U.S. mayors, governors, university leaders, businesses and investors.

The promise stated that signers would continue to support the accord, “working together to take forceful action and to ensure that the U.S. remains a global leader in reducing emissions.”

In abiding by the “ambitious goals” of the Paris Agreement, the city has created the Climate Smart San Jose plan, which addresses energy and mobility, two of the largest drivers of fossil fuel emissions, according to the mayor’s office.

The plan, spearheaded by the mayor and other city officials including Environmental Services Department director Kerrie Romanow, has nine overarching strategies.

The strategies include transitioning to a renewable energy future, densifying the city to accommodate future neighbors, making homes efficient and affordable for families, developing integrated public transport, creating local jobs to reduce vehicle miles driven, and improving commercial building stock.

Romanow said the plan isn’t just about creating more green solutions, but also about improving the quality of life for residents and workers in San Jose.

Romanow said more than 2,000 members of the community provided input during the development of the plan.

The city leaders and stakeholders involved with the plan presented at 13 public meetings between May 2017 and this month.

“This is the culmination of a lot of work from an awful lot of folks,” Liccardo said. “It’s also the beginning of a lot of important work ahead and we’re excited to make this happen.”

The plan includes short-, medium- and long-term goals, including 100 percent emission-free electricity being made available to all San Jose Clean Energy users by 2021, reducing carbon emissions from vehicular trips by a million tons pre year by 2030, and becoming the first city in the world to produce 1 gigawatt of solar power by 2040.

San Jose Clean Energy is the city’s Community Choice Energy program and is expected to roll out later this year.

“We want all of our residents, specifically our low-income residents, to benefit from our green dividends that will come from reducing energy and water consumption,” Liccardo said.

A town hall meeting will be held on Tuesday in City Council chambers at City Hall so that residents can learn more about the environmental initiative and what it will mean. The meeting will begin at 7 p.m. and end at 8:30 p.m.

The Climate Smart San Jose plan is scheduled to come to the City Council for approval during its meeting on Feb. 27.


San Jose mayor, others introduce new environmental initiative, by Bay City News Service, SF Gate, February 15, 2018. 

SV Clean Energy repays $2.7M loan to cities

The cities of Gilroy and Morgan Hill were among 11 Santa Clara County cities, which, along with the county government, last month were repaid in full the startup loans from Silicon Valley Clean Energy, the public non-profit “community choice” energy agency that now provides most electricity to most county residents.

As part of an agreement  that formed Silicon Valley Clean Energy in 2016, the energy agency—which provides cleaner power at competitive costs—the county’s municipalities loaned $2.7 million to provide the agency with initial working capital.

The loan agreement gave the agency four years from the effective date of the agreement, or March 2020, to pay back the loan. However, all funds were returned in January 2018, more than two years ahead of schedule, and within the agency’s first year of operation.

The cities of Gilroy and Morgan Hill each received checks for $100,000, their share of the startup loan.

The agency also secured an $18 million revolving line of credit and a $2 million non-revolving line of credit, both of which were retired in late 2017. The loans allowed Silicon Valley Clean Energy to get up and running and pay for startup costs, which included power procurement, staffing, marketing and outreach, the agency reported this week.

“Returning our startup loans well ahead of schedule and being debt-free in less than a year shows that Community Choice Energy is a viable model,” says Rob Rennie, Silicon Valley Energy Board Chair. “When forming this agency, we were focused on the significant greenhouse gas reductions having carbon-free electricity would provide, but our communities will gain additional benefits with [our agency] reinvesting net revenues in our local economy and providing customer programs.”

Community choice energy agencies in California are funded by ratepayers through electricity sales, and do not rely on taxpayer funds.

The agency is locally governed by a board of directors comprised of one elected official from each member community.

Since launching service in April 2017, SVCE now serves more than 242,000 commercial and residential electricity customers in 11 Santa Clara County towns and cities, and unincorporated county communities with carbon-free power—97 per cent of all customers in the service area.

Silicon Valley electric generation rates are 1 percent less than PG&E’s equivalent rate, providing an estimated $3.4 million dollars of on-bill savings to customers, according to the agency.

Silicon Valley Clean Energy customers still get billed by PG&E and pay PG&E for electricity transmission and delivery. It is now just a new line item of the bill that replaces PG&E electric generation charges. Customers pay SVCE on a line item on the PG&E bill called “Silicon Valley Clean Energy Electric Generation Charges.”

Customers with questions about how to understand SVCE generation charges on their bill can visit or call 1-844-474-7823 (SVCE).

Silicon Vallley Clean Energy’s GreenStart electric generation service offers 50 percent renewable energy that is 100 percent carbon free, Tobin continued. For a higher rate, residential and commercial customers can choose to upgrade to SVCE’s GreenPrime program, to receive 100 percent renewable power.

In comparison, PG&E’s existing service offers 60 percent carbon-free, 30 percent renewable energy.


SV Clean Energy repays $2.7M loan to cities, by Staff, The Gilroy Dispatch, February 14, 2018. 

SFPUC Gearing Up to Bring Cleaner Energy to 100,000+ SF Customers this Summer

San Francisco, CA—The San Francisco Public Utilities Commission (SFPUC) is gearing up to provide cleaner energy to more than 100,000 San Francisco residents and businesses this summer. It’s all part of the next large-scale customer enrollment for the City’s popular Community Choice Aggregation (CCA) program called CleanPowerSF. SFPUC Commissioners voted today to give the City utility the authority to enter into long-term supply agreements with renewable and shaped energy providers. Once those agreements are in place, the SFPUC will be able to increase its portfolio of renewable energy supply and begin serving new CleanPowerSF customers in this next phase on July 1st.

“We know that San Franciscans are eager to reduce their carbon footprint with cleaner energy, and we are working hard to make that happen,” said SFPUC General Manager Harlan L. Kelly, Jr. “With these additional resources, we will purchase more renewable energy and deliver it to customers in the coming months. For the past 100 years, San Francisco has been generating clean hydropower from Hetch Hetchy Reservoir for the benefit of City residents. We are proud to continue to advance this long and vital tradition of delivering clean energy. As we continue to expand our CleanPowerSF program, more residents and businesses will have access to cleaner energy at competitive rates.”

CleanPowerSF successfully welcomed its first 75,000 customers across the City in 2016 as part of its plan to roll the program out in structured phases. The next large-scale enrollment will happen on July 1. The SFPUC will notify customers who are selected for the upcoming largescale enrollment through a multi-faceted public awareness campaign including targeted digital advertising, community events and U.S. mail prior to this next phase of the structured enrollment process. The SFPUC anticipates enrolling all eligible San Francisco customers in CleanPowerSF by July 2019.

While CleanPowerSF will continue enrolling customers by neighborhood through 2019, all current San Francisco PG&E customers who are not already enrolled in the program can go to to be included in the next enrollment phase.

Cleaner energy at a competitive price

CleanPowerSF is a partnership between the SFPUC and PG&E to deliver cleaner energy at competitive rates to residents and businesses in San Francisco. Under the program, PG&E continues to maintain the power grid, respond to outages and send monthly bills. The process of switching from PG&E’s electricity supply to CleanPowerSF’s supply is seamless.

As CleanPowerSF is introduced across the City, customers are automatically enrolled in CleanPowerSF’s Green service, featuring at least 40% renewable energy from California sources. CleanPowerSF also offers an optional upgrade to 100% renewable energy. For comparison, PG&E’s electricity supply is currently 33% renewable.

As the City continues to eliminate carbon emissions from its electricity supply, the SFPUC is empowering residents and businesses with an array of programs and initiatives that make it easy to go green. In addition to CleanPowerSF, the SFPUC also offers clean Hetch Hetchy clean hydropower to eligible commercial and residential customers. The SFPUC is also building a Hetch Hetchy clean hydropower distribution line in the City’s Mission Bay neighborhood to better connect future customers with Hetch Hetchy clean electricity. Additionally, the SFPUC is responsible for the installation, maintenance and operation of the City’s 20 municipal solar photovoltaic (PV) installations. In total, the 20 solar energy facilities can generate up to 8.1 megawatts (MW) of energy.


SFPUC Gearing Up to Bring Cleaner Energy to 100,000+ SF Customers this Summer, by Staff, San Francisco Water Power Sewer, February 13, 2018. 

Lamorinda mayors balk at proposed CPUC resolution

Mayors Dave Trotter of Moraga and Don Tatzin of Lafayette have urged the California Public Utilities Commission to vote against implementing a registration process for new community choice aggregators, arguing that the registration process is an improper de facto freeze on CCA implementation.
 “It is inappropriate for CPUC staff to now attempt to forcibly implement a freeze,” Trotter wrote in a Jan. 16 letter to Michael Picker, PUC president. “Adoption of the resolution would unreasonably delay new communities from joining or forming CCAs.”
 Community choice aggregation is a nonprofit alternative to investor-owned utilities that allows government entities to purchase energy for their communities, choosing a power generating source that provides cheaper or greener energy products, or both. With the rapid emergence of CCAs, the PUC says it wants to force the aggregators to comply with its resource adequacy program, which ensures that the CCAs have contracted for enough power generation to meet peak customer demand, relieving the prior utility – locally, PG&E – of the cost and responsibility. According to the commission, many new CCAs are not incorporated into the resource adequacy program and the draft resolution will require their compliance.
 Marin Clean Energy is California’s first community choice aggregator, providing a basic 50 percent renewable energy service to its customers, with an option to upgrade to 100 percent renewable energy. “We are concerned that the CPUC is overreaching its authority,” said Dawn Weisz, MCE chief executive officer.
 Weisz and Trotter, an MCE board member, agree that the issues of expanding CCA communities and resource adequacy should be resolved transparently in a formal regulatory proceeding. “The draft is an inappropriate procedural pathway to solving a cost allocation issue,” said Weisz. The commission’s reliance solely on confidential data supplied by PG&E also troubled Weisz, she said.
 Tatzin, an MCE board member, said that had the proposed PUC resolution been in place when his city applied to MCE, customers would have waited 15 months longer to receive electricity from the company, costing customers more money for nonrenewable PG&E energy. If Lafayette had joined a new CCA, Tatzin said the delay would have caused startup costs to go on for 15 more months, decreasing the financial viability of the new CCA and depriving consumers of a choice.
 “Even if a subsidy exists, the PUC has other means to correct that situation without delaying growth and formation of CCAs,” said Tatzin who presented his arguments to the commission in January.
 The PUC has scheduled a Feb. 8 vote on the draft resolution.
 Moraga will join MCE in April. Lafayette has been an MCE member since September 2016, while Orinda has declined to join a community choice aggregator.


Lamorinda mayors balk at proposed CPUC resolution, by Nick Marnell, The Lamorinda Weekly, February 7, 2018.

Richmond hosts largest publicly owned solar project in SF Bay Area

The more than 103,000 residents of Richmond, California, will soon be able to take pride in hosting what the companies involved are saying is the largest publicly owned solar project in the San Francisco Bay Area.

The 60-acre, 10 MW MCE Solar One plant is the result of a partnership between the city and four main companies: Cenergy Power, sPower, RP Construction Services (RPCS) and Array Technologies.

Constructed by RPCS on the site of an old oil refinery, 80,000 ground-mounted modules are mounted on Array Technologies DuraTrack HZ v3 trackers. The plant is expected to produce enough electricity to power 9% of the town’s 36,093 households.

Customers partially covered the pre-development costs through their participation in Marin Clean Energy’s (MCE) Deep Green 100% renewable energy service, a Community Choice Aggregation (CCA) program that allows customers to power their homes with 100% clean energy for around $4 per month more than their current bills, according to MCE.

CCAs are becoming more and more popular in California, with more than a dozen either already established or in planning.

“It’s great seeing an old refinery convert its property to a solar project,” said Alex Smith, RPCS chief sales officer. “Overcoming site-specific environmental and property challenges on this site is proof that more of these projects are going to keep happening.”


Richmond hosts largest publicly owned solar project in SF Bay Area, by Frank Andorka, PV Magazine, February 1, 2018.

A Radical Clean Energy Pioneer

When Local Clean Energy Alliance coordinator Al Weinrub says power to the people, he means power, not just electricity.

For the last decade, Weinrub, a dyed-in-the-wool anti-imperialist from the ’60s, has played an important role as a community advocate in pushing Alameda County to create a new public agency that will next year replace PG&E selling electricity to local residents, largely in an effort to increase the use of renewable resources.

In so doing, Alameda County’s new East Bay Community Energy agency, or EBCE, will end PG&E’s local electricity monopoly. The county is joining a trend that is transforming the electricity industry across the state and nation in which communities are combining their citizens’ purchasing power to buy green electricity and compete with investor-owned utilities.

Just cleaning up the East Bay’s energy supply, however, is not good enough for Weinrub. He and other activists operating out of a small downtown Oakland office have doggedly tried to ensure that Alameda County uses this moment to plan for building and owning more local clean energy facilities to generate good local jobs.

“To me and the Local Clean Energy Alliance, this is all about social justice,” said Weinrub, an unassuming, Harvard-trained nuclear physicist.

Nicholas Chaset, who became East Bay Community Energy’s CEO in August, is targeting a start date in June. Nearly all customers in the county now served by PG&E will automatically be enrolled-except for residents of Pleasanton and Newark, which have not yet joined EBCE-with the chance to opt out if they want to continue to buy electricity from PG&E.

Regardless of who produces the electricity, utilities like PG&E will continue making money delivering electricity to customers through their transmission and distribution systems. Utilities also will continue to provide meter reading and maintenance services.

Weinrub joined the Local Clean Energy Alliance in 2009 after he was laid off by Sun Microsystems. For 20 years, he had been a technical writer for software corporations and an officer of the National Writers Union, and he wanted to throw himself into activism. He and his wife live in Oakland and have a 29-year-old son.

Taking community control of electricity, it turned out, brought together key strands of Weinrub’s life. Radicalized by the Vietnam War as a young man, Weinrub had turned away from nuclear physics and helped launch a group called Science for the People in an effort, he said, to combat the concentration of money and power in the “ruling classes.”

Community energy aggregation, he believed, offered a vehicle for delivering environmental and social benefits while also transforming the world’s corrupt economic underpinnings. “Capitalism has been a failure in terms of meeting the needs of the world’s population, even though it is meeting the needs of a very small group of people. The reality is the world is on brink of disaster because capitalism has run amok,” Weinrub said.

Weinrub lays out his thesis in an essay called “Democratizing Municipal Scale Power” that appears in a new book he co-edited called Energy Democracy, which looks at various efforts by communities around the country to take control of local power systems. “We want to democratize energy – put people back in control of their energy future,” he said. “There is no such thing as democracy when there is economic, environmental, and social injustice.”

Weinrub and others spent years trying to get various East Bay cities and EBMUD to launch a locally oriented community choice aggregation agency before the county took on the job in 2014, subsequently joined by 11 cities.

Community choice aggregation first emerged in Massachusetts in 1997 and already exists in six states, including California, where it was authorized in 2002 by state law. But it was not until 2010 that Marin County launched the state’s first publicly owned electricity service provider, now known as MCE.

Then, in recent years, the concept caught on like wildfire, and it was even cited as a factor in PG&E’s plan to close the Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant. UCLA researchers this spring predicted investor-owned utilities could see 50 to 80 percent of their customer load leaving by 2030.

There are now nine operational community choice aggregation agencies around the state, including in San Francisco, San Mateo, Santa Clara and Sonoma counties. About a half-dozen are expected to launch next year, including the one in Alameda County. On average, such agencies have delivered 25 percent more renewable energy to customers than investor-owned utilities, and at competitive prices, the UCLA report found.

Since MCE launched, it has grown to include all of Marin and Napa counties, the city of Benicia, and multiple Contra Costa County cities, starting with Richmond in 2012. Last summer, it agreed to serve a larger chunk of Contra Costa County, including Concord, San Ramon, Pittsburg, and five smaller municipalities, which will nearly double MCE’s customer base to about 500,000.

MCE offers between 50 and 100 percent green energy, with customers wanting higher percentages paying a little bit more. It has developed several small, local solar installations and it is currently finishing construction of a $25 million, 10.5 megawatt solar plant on 49 acres of remediated brownfields in Richmond with at least half of the jobs reserved for local residents.

MCE has also committed to spending $1.6 billion to build new renewable generation from a variety of disparate locations, said agency spokesman Alex DiGiorgio.

Weinrub said that’s good as far as it goes, but MCE makes “a big deal about a miniscule amount of local renewables” and much of its power is coming from large, remote power plants, like big solar farms in Southern California.

But some worry that Alameda County may try to get too many community benefits up front at the expense of rates that could hurt competitiveness. Nonetheless, Weinrub gets credit for being a staunch advocate and for helping defend community choice aggregation in California. “Their group as a whole has done a phenomenal job of ensuring that our program is better than any other in existence,” said Shawn Wilson, chief of staff to Alameda County Supervisor Scott Haggerty, who has championed community choice aggregation.

Weinrub and other advocates on multiple occasions have also helped beat back what they saw as hostile legislative attempts to cripple community choice aggregation.

In 2010, they defeated Proposition 16, a PG&E-supported ballot measure that would have amended the state constitution to require a two-thirds supermajority voter approval before local governments could use public funds or issue bonds to establish or expand public electricity service or community choice aggregation. Though PG&E outspent opponents 500-1, pumping about $44 million into its campaign, voters rejected the measure.

The California Public Utilities Commission is also examining a request by utilities to levy higher exit fees on customers who shift to community owned providers.

PG&E spokesman Ari Vanrenen said his company is not against community choice aggregation, and in fact supported the original legislation allowing the approach. PG&E simply does not want its remaining customers to be stuck with unfair bills, he said.

Weinrub remains watchful and distrustful. “Unless we can create an energy system whose purpose is to meet the environmental, economic, and social justice needs of our communities, as defined by our communities, we will be sacrificed to a corporate-driven, extractive, wasteful, destructive energy model that lays waste to our species and our planet,” he said.


A Radical Clean Energy Pioneer, by Patrick Hoge, The East Bay Express, January 30, 2018.

Earthquakes, fires and isolation point to need for microgrids

POINT REYES –The earthquake that struck the Bay Area on Jan. 4 served as a reminder that we who live in California do so with risk. While the 4.4-magnitude earthquake centered near Berkeley did little damage—other than wake folks like yours truly up from a deep slumber—it could perhaps foreshadow a much larger and more damaging quake in the near future.

Seismic experts estimate there is a one-in-three probability of a major earthquake hitting somewhere in the Bay Area within the next 30 years. It could be tomorrow, or it could be decades from now. What should communities in West Marin do to prepare for such a potential catastrophe?

I would argue that key emergency shelters should consider creating a “microgrid” as a first step to making our communities more resilient. Eventually, both homeowners and local businesses could also create such islands of resilience, taking advantage of advances in clean energy technologies such as solar panels and new kinds of batteries. But just what is a microgrid?

A microgrid is a small power grid that keeps running when the larger utility grid goes down. Absent a microgrid, solar panels shut off like the rest of the grid, rendered useless when they could be providing their highest value.

The traditional solution to blackouts for utility customers has been to use diesel or propane generators. But these energy sources pollute the air. As Easterners will tell, many also failed during Superstorm Sandy in 2012 and the more recent hurricanes that hit both Texas and Florida. California’s clean air and climate change regulations limit the burning of diesel and propane, both fossil fuels. In contrast, microgrids can integrate batteries, which, like solar panels, keep dropping in price, providing emergency power while also reducing pollution.

And what would happen if an earthquake similar in magnitude to the 1906 quake struck? A project developed by the San Francisco Department of the Environment asked that very question. While 96 percent of the city’s consumers could expect their electricity to be back on-line within a week, it could take six months for the natural gas infrastructure to be fully operational.

After a mapping exercise located critical facilities in San Francisco that could serve as emergency shelters during such a cataclysmic event, a dozen projects relying on new solar and battery systems were identified. So far, funding for initial groundwork has come from a $1.2-million grant from the federal Department of Energy.

Since 2011, a parade of East Coast states launched state funding programs for microgrids. According to Navigant Research, over 100 microgrids are operating or in the works in California. State agencies such as the California Energy Commission are developing a roadmap to further commercialize microgrids, and will soon announce the winners in a competition whereby state ratepayers will invest $44 million in a series of new microgrids.

This emerging industry has attracted both large industrials like General Electric and Silicon Valley start-ups. But will any of these private companies be interested in the scale of microgrids that is needed in West Marin?

The Dance Palace actually has a microgrid, installed about a decade ago by Jerry Lunsford and solar installers at Muir Beach-based SunFirst. The center’s technical director, Burton Eubank, just changed out the lead-acid batteries, which died after their expected 10-year life. When the grid goes down, the microgrid supports refrigerators, telecommunications and other vital equipment. “It works great,” said Eubank, who hopes to install a Tesla battery at his own home, which already has solar panels, when the so-called “Powerwalls” feature warranties for 25 years. “I’m all over with PG&E,” he said. “I want to be truly independent.”

Another microgrid in the region, located on the outskirts of the City of Sonoma, operated continuously for 10 straight days while neighbors lost power due to wildfires. The Stone Edge Farm microgrid features 10 different types of batteries and the farm offers educational tours. Even when folks there were evacuated, operators continued to manage the microgrid’s operation remotely.

The following statistics underscore why military bases, hospitals and, increasingly, communities see value in improving the resilience of regional power grids. Last year, 16 natural disasters, including hurricanes and wild fires, cost taxpayers $1 billion apiece. All told, natural disasters cost the United States $306 billion in 2017, a new record. With climate change and lingering terrorist threats, the promise of microgrids to provide emergency services is picking up around the globe. Shouldn’t we in West Marin consider a community plan for more microgrids?


Earthquakes, fires and isolation point to need for microgrids by Peter Asmus, Point Reyes Light, January 18, 2018.

Sonoma Clean Power, MCE expand with wind, biogas

SCP, like MCE, is a clean-energy supplier with an agreement with PG&E to purchase electricity from sources like solar, wind, geothermal and hydropower from alternative sources, and feed it through PG&E’s wires to customers. PG&E also remains responsible for billing and maintenance to the system.

Customers can opt out of the service and sign with PG&E directly, but in Sonoma 88 percent rely on Sonoma Clean Power, and MCE serves 83 percent of the population it covers

In May, SCP broke ground on a wind facility, in the western central valley community of Tracy. The Golden Hills North Wind Facility project removed 283 30-year-old wind turbines and replaced them with 20 2.3-megawatt GE turbines, capable of generating more power with twice the efficiency of the previous installation.

The wind project will have a generating capacity of 46 megawatts, enough to power more than 13,500 homes, and is forecasted to cover 6 percent of SCP’s load starting in 2018.

In June, SCP began serving Mendocino County, which added 38,000 new customers to its existing 196,000 in Sonoma County.

In August, SCP broke ground in rural Petaluma on its first solar facility that will generate two megawatts of solar energy — enough electricity to power 600 homes.

SPC also started a program for customers to install smart devices, like EV charging stations and in the future smart heat pump water heaters, and thermostats, that gives SCP permission to control those devices to help out the electricity grid under times of stress, enabling more renewable energy to come online.

MCE currently serves about 225,000 customers in Marin County, Napa County, Benicia, Richmond, El Cerrito, San Pablo, Lafayette and Walnut Creek and expects to add another nine counties, or 200,000 more customers in 2018.

MCE’s Freethy Industrial Park solar project in Richmond went online in February, with a two-megawatt, ground-mounted solar project

The project supplies enough power for up to 600 homes, with greenhouse gas reductions equivalent to taking 114 cars off the road each year.

MCE’s biogas plant in Novato began operations in September. The plant converts trash into local power. The plant will provide enough renewable electricity to serve more than 5,000 MCE customers in Marin and Napa counties and the cities of Benicia, El Cerrito, Lafayette, Richmond, San Pablo, and Walnut Creek.

The new $14.5 million state-of-the-art plant takes the methane gas, produced by trash, and powers two reciprocating engines that generate 3.9 megawatts of electricity 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

MCE will also go online early in 2018 with Solar One, the second largest solar installation in the Bay area, according to Jamie Tuckey, director of public affairs. Located in Richmond, the 60-acre project will generate 10.5 megawatts of power, enough for 3,000 homes each year.

Cynthia Sweeney covers health care, hospitality, residential real estate, education, employment and business insurance. Reach her at or call 707-521-4259.


Sonoma Clean Power, MCE expand with wind, biogas ,By Cynthia Sweeney, North Bay Business Journal, December 25, 2017

Environmental Victory in California: Marin County Chooses 100% Renewable Energy

This fall, Marin became the first county in the state to have 100% renewable electricity for all of its county, town, and city municipal accounts. Together, all 12 municipalities have eliminated an estimated 3,570 metric tons of pollution, or the EPA equivalent of removing 764 cars from the road in one year.

Belvedere was the first of Marin’s municipalities to opt up to Deep Green, MCE’s 100% California-sourced renewable energy service, in 2010. This was closely followed by opt ups from Fairfax (2012), San Anselmo (2014), and Sausalito (2014). This year Corte Madera, Larkspur, Mill Valley, Novato, Ross, San Rafael, Tiburon, and the County of Marin joined the movement to purchase 100% pollution-free electricity for all public buildings, streetlights, and other civic accounts.

“Not only does this contribute more renewable energy to California’s electrical grid, but half of the Deep Green premium collected goes towards building local solar projects in our service area, like MCE Solar One, a 60-acre solar project in Richmond that’s nearing completion,” said Dawn Weisz, CEO of MCE. “Marin is making a significant contribution to the state’s requirement of 100% renewable energy use by 2045. The county has shown that on a local level, we can not only help achieve California’s goal ahead of schedule, we can demonstrate the urgency of acting on climate change now.”

Municipal adoption of 100% renewable electricity was a catalyst for inspiring local residents and businesses to opt up as well. In Marin County, enrollments in Deep Green have increased 62% in just 10 months, from 2.7% (2,378 accounts) in January, to over 4% (3,852 accounts) as of October 2017. Marin County homes, businesses, and municipal accounts make up over half of all Deep Green customers in MCE’s entire service area. As of September 2017, MCE has reached its goal of having 5% of its total electricity load enrolled in Deep Green, 7 years ahead of its original 2025 target.

Marin County’s Climate Action Plan aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 30% below 1990 levels – double the State’s reduction target – in 2020. Together, Marin County communities have reduced their greenhouse gas emissions by 15% compared to 2005 levels.

Many  environmental groups and activists played key roles in providing information to the City and Town Councils, and the County Board of Supervisors, including Environmental Forum of Marin and 350Marinmembers, Sarah Loughran and Helene Marsh, as well as the Marin Conservation LeagueCitizen’s’ Climate Lobby (Marin Chapter), Resilient NeighborhoodsOFA MarinCool the EarthCoalition for a Livable MarinMarin School of Environmental LeadershipStrategic Energy InnovationsSustainable MarinSierra Club (Marin Group), Sustainable San RafaelSustainable NovatoSustainable FairfaxFairfax Climate Action CommitteeMainstreet Moms (West Marin), Mill Valley Community Action Network, and CA Interfaith Power and Light.


Environmental Victory in California: Marin County Chooses 100% Renewable Energy, By Kalicia Pivirotto, Marin Clean Energy, December 17, 2017

Bay Area Rapid Transit Commits to a Future Powered by Wind & Solar

Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART), the public transportation system of the San Francisco Bay Area, is moving forward on plans to source the majority of its electricity supply from renewables. The BART Board of Directors approved two 20-year renewable-energy power purchase agreements this week.

“These agreements will ensure the District gets a majority of its electricity supply from clean, renewable, and competitively-priced sources through at least 2040,” said BART Board President Rebecca Saltzman. “Wind and solar energy will take center stage in BART’s long-term electricity supply.”

One of the agreements calls for NextEra Energy Resources to build a new 61.7-MW wind energy project, and the other calls for Recurrent Energy to build a new 45-MW solar energy project. Both projects will be located in Kern County and are expected to be online by January 1, 2021.

“These agreements demonstrate BART’s commitment to being a climate-forward transportation agency and establish the agency as a national leader when it comes to utilizing renewable energy,” said BART District 8 Director Nick Josefowitz.

BART currently gets 4% of its electricity supply from renewable sources, but that will increase dramatically with these two new agreements. Renewable energy will account for about 90% of the District’s electricity portfolio, starting in 2021, when the two new renewable projects begin delivery under the agreements.

The new agreements would not be possible without California Senate Bill 502, which was authored by then San Francisco State Senator Mark Leno, and approved by the state legislature in 2015. That bill allows BART to directly procure renewable energy sources.

“BART received a robust set of competitive bids in response to the Request for Proposals that was issued in May 2017,” said BART Sustainability Director Holly Gordon. “The price per kWh (kilowatt hour) that BART will pay when the projects begin operating in 2021 is lower than what BART currently pays for energy.  That low price will be locked in for 20 years, resulting in significant cost savings for BART over the long term.”

The two agreements build on the Wholesale Electricity Portfolio Policy approved by the BART Board in April. That policy calls on BART to get at least 50% of its electricity from renewable sources by 2025. The new agreements mean BART is well ahead of that goal. Ultimately, BART plans to get 100% of its electricity from renewable sources by 2045.

BART currently uses about 400,000 MWh of electricity every year. That’s slightly more than the electricity needs of the city of Alameda and makes BART one of the largest users in Northern California.

Bay Area Rapid Transit Commits to a Future Powered by Wind & Solar, by Michelle Froese, Windpower, December 8, 2017.