The recent public interest and controversy about a proposed solar field has reminded us that we as a community must come together to make choices that are good for the environment, good for our quality of life and good for our economy.
First though, we want to make sure we are all using the same facts about the role of MCE (formerly known as Marin Clean Energy) in supplying clean electricity to Napa County’s electricity customers. Some basics:
The name: Marin Clean Energy is, at this point, sort of a misnomer. Think “My Clean Energy” instead.
MCE is a not-for-profit public agency, a “community choice aggregator,” composed of member municipalities from around the North Bay. Members include all communities in Marin County (where it started), all communities in Napa County, the city of Benicia in Solano, and 14 communities in Contra Costa County.
MCE is one of several community choice energy suppliers across the state, including Sonoma Clean Power, serving Sonoma and Mendocino counties; Clean Valley Energy, serving Davis and Yolo County; and CleanPowerSF, serving San Francisco.
MCE is governed by a board of directors of elected officials, each of whom represent the communities they serve.
The job: MCE buys electricity generation supply for customers. PG&E still delivers your electricity. Typically, the reasons utility customers stay with MCE is because they’ve historically been slightly cheaper than PG&E while also getting more of their energy from renewable sources (economics and environment, hand in hand). MCE also offers a 100 percent Deep Green option for electricity that is currently less expensive that PG&E’s 100 percent renewable option.
The way it works: MCE buys renewable energy in the marketplace – as PG&E does—and uses its revenue to incentivize local solar installations, to increase the amount of locally-generated renewable energy available to its customers. Each of these projects must fulfill and conform to local regulations and the normal permitting process to be eligible for MCE’s contract.
MCE is not involved in finding and developing sites for projects, but is always interested in supporting local renewables if the project is approved by the community and it meets their requirements.
MCE’s energy portfolio is at least 50 percent renewable. Much higher that the 30 percent of PG&E’s portfolio that is from renewable sources. Given that the vast majority of Napa County’s customers are served by MCE, that 50 percent means that we have made significant progress toward our greenhouse gas reduction goals.
Especially now, with the county redrafting its Climate Action Plan this could be an excellent time to explore strategies for well-considered development of local renewable energy generation. For example, creation of renewable energy zones to identify the best and most appropriate locations for solar in advance of any particular project.
In short, the challenge is not that Napa customers get their electricity from MCE, nor that MCE is developing local sources of renewable energy generation. The challenge is finding the best locations to carry out this good idea. Astute use of renewable energy will be a significant resource in meeting our climate action goals and powering our communities with clean energy.
Chair, Board of Directors
Sustainable Napa County
Napa County Supervisor, District 1
MCE Board of Directors
Explaining what MCE is all about, by Dave Whitmer and Brad Wagenknecht, Napa Valley Register, September 19, 2018.