SAN PABLO -- The city has joined the growing ranks of Bay Area municipal governments to consider allowing its residents to buy electricity from Marin Clean Energy instead of Pacific Gas & Electric Co.
Officials from MCE, a nonprofit renewable energy company, delivered a presentation to San Pablo's City Council on Monday outlining how the city could contract with it to provide its residents with more than 50 percent of their electricity from renewable sources such as solar and wind.
"San Pablo reached out to us a few months ago," said Dawn Weisz, MCE's chief executive. "But we haven't done any exploratory work there yet, so it's too early to say whether there would be any barriers" to providing the city energy.
City Manager Matt Rodriguez said Monday that San Pablo is interested, but details must be worked out first.
"We are receptive to the merits of such a program," Rodriguez wrote in an email Monday. "However, the pros and cons need to be vetted to ensure compatibility (with the) values and needs of San Pablo residents. ... Cautious is a better approach at this point."
Rodriguez said July would be the earliest that the council might consider approving any plan to bring MCE to the city.
MCE provides at least 50 percent of its energy to residents and businesses from renewable sources, compared with 20 percent for PG&E.
Thirteen cities and towns, a total of 92,000 customers, are now contracted to receive energy from MCE. Twelve of the municipal customers are in Marin County; Richmond will be the first East Bay city to come online this summer, Weisz said.
MCE delivers energy over existing grid infrastructure, Weisz said, and its rates are less than $1 more per month for the average residence than PG&E. Both utilities' rates are subject to change every year.
But MCE's rates are slightly cheaper for commercial customers, Weisz said. Residents can opt into a "deep green" program to get 100 percent of their energy from renewable sources for about $5 more per month.
The rate comparisons are a "snapshot in time," Weisz said. "They can go lower or higher, but folks will have a choice."
PG&E continues to handle the transmission of electricity generated by MCE.
With clean energy upstarts such as MCE cutting into its vast market share, PG&E filed a letter in April with the state Public Utilities Commission retaining the right to engage in marketing or lobbying in the future.
In the letter, PG&E said it "expects that at some time it will wish to express to customers or governments its views on (Community Choice Aggregation) programs that can only be expressed through an independent marketing division under the rules in the CCA Code of Conduct," the letter reads.
The state passed its Community Choice Aggregation bill in 2002 to open up markets for defined jurisdictions to have the opportunity to secure alternative energy supply contracts. Per the law, customers in cities that adopt a CCA provider have to "opt out" to stay with PG&E; otherwise they will be automatically enrolled with the new energy provider.
Each client municipality of MCE has a representative to sit on its governing board, the Marin Energy Authority, which sets rates and other policies. Weisz said the board, which now has 13 members, must decide how to provide representation to new clients as the board grows.
"Some board members have expressed concern with continued growth of the board," Weisz said. "They've expressed interest in alternative ways to add communities within the service area."
MCE has also delivered presentations in Albany and El Cerrito, Weisz said, and numerous other municipalities across the state have submitted inquiries about the program.