RICHMOND -- With clean energy upstarts cutting into its vast market share, electrical utility Pacific Gas & Electric filed a letter this week with the state Public Utilities Commission retaining the right to engage in marketing or lobbying in the future.
The letter, filed ahead of the April 2 deadline, was prompted by a state law requiring utility corporations to declare before forming independent marketing divisions.
In the letter PG&E states that it "expects that at some time it will wish to express to customers or governments its views on (Community Choice Aggregation or CCA) programs that can only be expressed through an independent marketing division under the rules in the CCA Code of Conduct," the letter reads.
The move comes amid a rapidly changing environment in the once-staid world of public utilities. The Marin Energy Authority (MEA), a nonprofit public agency that in 2010 began providing energy derived from renewables, now serves 13 Bay Area cities and counties, including Richmond. The Marin Clean Energy (MCE) has picked up 90,000 residential and commercial customers, and expects to have more than 120,000 by summer.
MCE Executive Officer Dawn Weisz said Wednesday she is "extremely concerned and disappointed" that PG&E filed the letter.
"To market against community choice is concerning," Weisz said. "(PG&E) marketed against us at our creation, and spread a lot of misinformation in an aggressive campaign, the effects of which remain. We thought we were developing a better relationship with PG&E, so this is discouraging."
In Richmond, which will become MCE's largest customer this year, PG&E owns the electricity infrastructure through which customers will receive MCE energy.
Last year, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors voted to switch from PG&E to CleanPowerSF, another clean energy provider. Communities across the state are eyeing municipal and nonprofit clean energy alternatives to private, investor-owned giants like PG&E and Southern California Edison, which still serve nearly three-quarters of the state's customers. SCE did not file a letter reserving the right to market, Weisz said.
PG&E spokeswoman Nicole Liebelt said the company "has no plans at this time" to advertise or lobby, "but we do realize that the evolution of the CCA is in its early stages and it's reasonable to have options in the future."