A Beachhead for Public Power in Marin

The Marin Independent Journal reports this morning that the board of the Marin Energy Authority has approved a five-year contract with Shell Energy North America to provide government-purchased electricity to county residents, a milestone for boosters of public-power schemes in the Bay Area and across the state.

The vote is sure to be welcomed among public-power advocates in San Francisco, who are pushing ahead with a plan similar to that in Marin. Known as community choice aggregation, or CCA, the proposal allows city and county governments to secure power for residents through a provider of their choosing, rather than remaining with the existing utility. (In our case, PG&E.) San Francisco's plan is called CleanPowerSF.

Proponents of CCA say it empowers customers to purchase more renewable energy and can result in lower rates. But critics, including a Marin County civil grand jury and the San Francisco City Controller's office, say it could result in more costly power — and that some residents could be enrolled without their knowledge and active consent. (Under CCA, it is up to customers to “opt out” of the new government program if they want to stay with their current electricity provider.)

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