Sustainable Development and Marin Clean Energy
By Alex DiGiorgio, Marin Clean Energy
In Marin County, ‘sustainable development’ is a core value among residents, businesses,consumers and environmentalists—but what does it look like? Meet Marin Clean Energy (MCE), California’s first ‘community choice’ energy program, and the County’s namesake public power agency.
Since 2010, MCE has been providing Marin’s electricity consumers with access to more renewable energy than ever previously available. MCE offers a choice of 50% (‘Light Green’) and 100% (‘Deep Green’) renewable energy at highly competitive rates, as an alternative to PG&E’s energy supply. In 2014, MCE’s customers collectively saved about $5.9 million, due to MCE’s lower electric generation rates. Chief among the beneficiaries of these savings were Marin’s businesses, public schools and local government agencies. The City of San Rafael, for example, saved nearly $50,000 on its energy bill last year, even while it purchased substantially more renewable energy than most California cities. This year, MCE expects its customers to save more than $10 million.
As a proud member of the Marin Economic Forum (MEF) since 2013, MCE considers the challenge of reducing energy-related greenhouse gas emissions to be intimately tied to supporting local businesses. MCE’s innovative energy efficiency program, for example, includes opportunities specifically designed to help small businesses reduce their energy consumption—and, correspondingly, their utility bills. Similarly, businesses that enroll in MCE’s 100% renewable service option are entitled to free marketing and publicity benefits by joining MCE’s Deep Green Champions.
Half of the additional amount MCE’s Deep Green customers pay to upgrade to 100% renewable energy is reserved in MCE’s Local Renewable Development Fund. This revenue source is designed to directly support the development of new renewable energy projects within MCE’s servicearea,and offers businesses the opportunity to help ensure their ratepayer dollars are reinvested locally.
Like MEF, MCE is committed topursuing programs and policies that fortify Marin’slong term economic competitiveness. For this reason, MCE offers local energy entrepreneurs an above-market wholesale purchasing price for electricity generated by solar and other renewable resources. Through MCE’s Feed-in Tariff, for example, the San Rafael Airport installed the County’s largest solar facility to date. Similarly, MCE is preparing to unveil its latest service option—Local Sol—which will be both 100% renewable and100% locally sourced. All of the energy generated on behalf of MCE’s Local Sol customers will be generated at a solar farm currently under construction in Novato.
Thanks to the collaborative efforts of organizations like MCE and MEF, Marin’s business interests need not be in tension with its environmental stewardship. Just as the words ‘ecology’ and ‘economy’ share the same root, the term ‘sustainable development’ is defined by a commitment to help bothflourish.