MCE Approves Martinez’s Admittance to Energy Alliance

MARTINEZ, Calif. – After completing the lengthy application for membership, Martinez has been approved for admittance to Marin Clean Energy, said Alex DiGiorgio, deputy director of the agency’s community development.

The Martinez City Council heard multiple presentations about community choice energy before deciding to pursue membership in Marin Clean Energy (MCE). At the latest meeting of the MCE Board, the city joined eight others in being approved for membership.

The Board also approved Contra Costa County, Oakley, Concord, Pinole, Moraga, Danville, San Ramon and Pittsburg as new members at the same meeting.

DiGiorgio said Martinez submitted the complex application, which included Council-approved resolutions and ordinances that authorized the request for membership, in time for an economic study to show it would be worthwhile for MCE to accept the application.

Those documents were presented to the board in time for its July meeting and decision.

The mutual decision by the Martinez City Council and MCE’s Board means that energy subscribers will get their power through MCE, not Pacific Gas and Electric (PGE), unless they express a preference to stay with the current electricity provider.

PG&E will continue to provide the delivery system and maintain lines and equipment. It also will handle billing, and those bills will be nearly identical to those customers receive now. The only difference is a line that notes the source of the power is MCE.

But two elements led to the Council’s decision to make the change. MCE focuses on buying power from renewable sources, and when it builds electricity generators, those also employ “green” sources, such as solar arrays.

In most cases, power rates historically are lower with community choice energy organizations, and communities have a say in the matter, unlike with PG&E.

Now that MCE has accepted Martinez as a member, its next job is to select a Martinez representative for the Board. That person could be seated as early as September. The Board gives members a say about energy police and procurement decisions.

Power customers will be getting five notices from MCE about the upcoming change, DiGiorgio said. The mailed notices will describe the customers’ options, including how to stay with PG&E, if that is the customer’s choice. California law requires four mailed notices.

Those should start appearing about two months before the official enrollment period begins in mid to late spring, DiGiorgio said. MCE representatives also will be speaking to Martinez organizations and make public appearances, such as at the city’s Sunday farmers market.

“MCE goes way far and above what’s required,” he said.

Changing from PG&E to a community choice agency is a growing trend, said Jason Crapo, deputy director of the Contra Costa County Department of Conservation and Development. Marin, Sonoma, San Francisco and San Mateo as well as Benicia in Solano County, which joined MCE several years ago, already have active community choice agencies.

Napa County and its cities also have joined MCE, as have other Contra Costa County cities. Alameda and Santa Clara are working on community choice options.

Martinez has been working alongside Contra Costa County since 2015 in examining community choice options and whether they would work for the two governmental agencies and other area cities.

The Council conducted three public meetings and workshops starting in 2016, and sought opinions through an online survey and at other public gatherings.

The appeal is lower rates, the likelihood of reduced greenhouse gas emissions, the opportunity to develop local solar and other renewable energy projects and the increase in local job creation, Crapo said.

Under these agencies, there are locations for renewable generation to meet a significant percentage of electricity demand, and 40 percent of those are in the northern waterfront area, Crapo said.

He described MCE as a program with a seven-year “positive” track record and the shortest time to service commencement. “It’s quite successful,” he said. “They’ve shown they know what they’re doing.”

MCE Approves Martinez’s Admittance to Energy Alliance, by Donna Beth Weilenman, Martinez News-Gazette, August 9, 2017.

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