“The single most effective way for Marin residents to reduce greenhouse gas emissions is to switch to Deep Green.”
By Doug Wilson and Mary Morgan (Marin Conservation League newsletter)
Those lines were written almost a year ago in this [Marin Conservation League] Newsletter on the eve of the County’s adoption of its updated Climate Action Plan (CAP), and they continue to be true, And yet, only about two percent of Marin customers of Marin Clean Energy have taken the easy step to sign up for MCE’s 100 percent renewable Deep Green option, a step that would cost them about $5.00 additional per month and eliminate over a ton of GHG pollution a year, the equivalent of roughly 15 full tanks of gas.
What is “Deep Green,” and how might it help Marin residents to meet the county’s goal of 60 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emission reduction by 2020? This article revisits Marin Clean Energy and its Deep Green energy option, describing its renewable energy bene ts and recent progress, and encourages readers (customers) to sign up for it.
Community Choice Aggregation (CCA) and MCE
Marin was the first county in California to establish a community choice aggregation (CCA) program under AB 117 legislation passed in 2002. MCE is a public agency overseen by a board of elected local of cials and owned by its ratepayers. Since establishment in 2010, it has expanded to serve more than 175,000 residents and businesses in Napa County and the Cities of Richmond, Benicia, El Cerrito, San Pablo, Walnut Creek and Lafayette. Following in MCE’s footsteps, other CCA programs are launching across the state of California with the objective of increasing renewable energy supply and fostering energy ef ciency. Pursuant to the CCA enabling legislation, all electricity customers within MCE’s service area are automatically enrolled in MCE. Those wishing to stay
with PG&E are required to af rmatively opt out. MCE is responsible for procuring power while PG&E remains responsible for delivery of power to customers’ homes or businesses, for infrastructure maintenance, and for billing.
Light Green—Deep Green explained
From the outset, MCE has offered 50 percent (“Light Green”) and 100 percent (“Deep Green”) renewable energy options. Most MCE customers were originally enrolled in the “Light Green” energy program. The Light Green program provides at least 50 percent renewable energy from sources such as solar, wind, bioenergy, geothermal and small hydropower. As an alternative, customers may upgrade to the “Deep Green” program, which is 100 percent renewable energy currently consisting of solar and wind. Biogas may be added to the Deep Green mix next year. A “Local Sol” option in the future will procure 100 percent solar power at guaranteed rates from local solar projects.
Since customers all receive power through a central electric grid, an individual’s purchase of green energy does not necessarily mean he or she is buying electrons directly from a known renewable source. Rather, the individual’s purchase through MCE causes that amount of renewable energy to be added to the grid, displacing an equivalent demand for fossil fuel-based energy.
In 2014, the renewable clean energy purchased for the Deep Green program comprised 100 percent wind power from Kern County and the state of Washington. In 2015 the mix comprised about 25 percent solar from California and 75 percent wind from California, Idaho and Washington. In 2016 about 25 percent biogas will be included. Wind power for MCE’s Deep Green comes partly from the newly built Mojave Rising Tree wind farm, an installation of newer, larger, slower-rotating turbines that greatly reduce bird strikes associated with older wind farms.
Renewable Energy Certi cates (RECs), often criticized, are being phased out by MCE as new sources of renewable energy become available. A REC is created when one megawatt-hour of renewable energy is generated and added to the grid. As the US EPA describes it, “The REC product conveys the attributes and bene ts of the renewable electricity, not the electricity itself.” A REC can be purchased ‘bundled’ together with the corresponding electrons or ‘unbundled’ which represents the green attribute of the power but without the corresponding electrons. Many unbundled RECs bought in California correspond to power produced out of state. As in-state generation has grown, MCE has reduced its unbundled REC purchases from 30 percent of its energy supply in 2014 to 15 percent in 2015 and has set a policy limit of 3 percent of its energy supply for 2016 through 2024.
Signing up for Deep Green.
Efficiencies due largely to its expanding customer base have allowed MCE to reduce its Light Green rate by about 9 percent. As of September 1, the average Light Green customer will pay $93.81 per month for 50 percent renewable power. The average PG&E customer will pay $94.27 for 30 percent renewable power. Deep Green customers will pay $98.44 for 100 percent renewable power. PG&E’s own ‘Solar Choice’ 100 percent renewable power program will cost the average customer $110.86 per month.
Signing up for Deep Green helps to support the development of new, local renewable energy projects. One half of the additional cost of Deep Green goes into a development fund currently being used for the rst MCE- owned project, Solar One, a 10.5 megawatt solar project planned to be operating in Richmond, CA, by 2017. MCE has at least seven additional local renewable projects either online or under construction, including rooftop solar systems at the San Rafael Airport and the Buck institute for Research in Aging, and ground mount solar installations at the Novato Cooley Quarry, Richmond Parkway, and Redwood Land ll. MCE has plans for 30.5 megawatts within its service area, and that will likely continue to grow, since MCE prefers locally sourced power.
Now is a good time to revisit Deep Green as a personal option. mcecleanenergy.org/dg-enroll.
Deep Green can complement individual rooftop solar installations. Customers whose solar roofs may not be able to meet all of their energy needs may choose to buy 100 percent renewable to cover their needs. Rooftop solar tends to be a more expensive option than Deep Green, since it usually requires an upfront investment. Once solar is installed, however, MCE pays above the full retail rate for any excess energy generated through its Net Energy Metering program. Deep Green is an easy and low-cost option for people who rent or can’t afford solar, or whose rooftop is not suitable for solar.
Why has only slightly more than two percent of MCE’s entire customer base thus far chosen to shift to Deep Green? In MCE’s early years, uncertainties about its future made some hesitate to sign up for Deep Green. Now that MCE has proved itself to be a robust and competitive provider of clean energy, caution may have been replaced by simple inertia! Since the urgency of climate change is only growing, now is a good time to revisit Deep Green as a personal option.