ALBANY -- The city could be the next to move away from PG&E and toward public power if a recommendation from its Sustainability Committee becomes reality.
The committee voted 7-0 on March 20 to recommend that the City Council consider the next steps in applying to join community choice aggregation program of Marin Clean Energy (mcecleanenergy.com).
The vote simply recommends that the council ask the Marin Energy Authority if it wants to expand to Albany; discuss how to fund a feasibility study; and explore the process of switching the city's residential and business customers to the new provider.
Nearby Richmond has already joined the Marin Clean Energy program.
One of the advantages cited for joining could be a reduction in greenhouse gas generated in producing power, which would help Albany meet its climate action plan.
Community Choice Aggregation is a sort of "halfway" version of public power. Instead of creating its own utility from scratch, a city can bundle together its customers to purchase power itself while still using the infrastructure of PG&E (or any other private utility) as the means of distribution. While PG&E charges to distribute the power, according to a presentation at the committee meeting, the price for the customer ends up approximately the same, sometimes a little more, sometimes a little less.
The city and Berkeley earlier attempted to work with the East Bay Municipal Utility District on an East Bay-based community choice plan. But when EBMUD declined to participate, Albany turned its attention to the Marin program.
"Marin Clean Energy has kind of always been on our radar because of how their programs are designed and they are the only one up and operating," said Claire Griffing, Albany's sustainability and transportation coordinator. "The (Sustainability) Committee has been talking about this for about a year."
Marin Clean Energy currently serves 92,000 customers and when the Richmond customers are online, that would add about 30,000 more.
MCE communications director Jamie Tuckey said the program's board would have to consider whether it wants to expand again.
"I think the conversation in general for our board of directors about expansion, not to Albany specifically, but to any community outside of our service area is something they're planning on having soon," Tuckey said, adding that the discussion would take place "whether or not Albany pursues an interest in joining."
The issue, said program Data Analyst Simon Loos, is "a balance between load and what sort of resources we have available, and timing is important as well. Taking two cities at the same time is probably easier to implement in terms of contracting for that power and making sure that power is available."
According to the presentation, a residential customer would pay $71.30 for 500 kilowatt hours of power a month with Marin Clean Energy and $72.90 with PG&E. Besides the cost, the difference is that 50 percent of the MCE power would come from renewable sources. Currently, PG&E is legally required to provide 20 percent renewable power.
A commercial customer would pay $172.77 with MCE for 1,225 kilowatt hours a month while PG&E would charge $179.72. Those prices include the fees PG&E would charge for delivery of the power.
If Albany does join the program, individual customers can opt out if desired.
Marin Clean Energy Authority was formed late in 2008 to serve Belvedere, Fairfax, Mill Valley, San Anselmo, San Rafael, Sausalito, Tiburon, Marin County and more than 30 unincorporated communities in that county.