Get Smart about Energy™

"Supervisors made their fateful decision after reviewing a litany of actions taken by PG&E to block the initiative, which will put the Marin Energy Authority in competition with the investor-owned utility as a retailer of electricity in Marin." (Marin IJ - Feb 02/2010)

I took the time to attend the Marin Civic Center to listen to the discussion on whether the Marin County Board of Supervisors would provide a loan guarantee to the Marin Energy Authority for the next phase of their operations.

I know that being green is politically correct, but I had little clue as to how emotional the issue would be. As I arrived, I was confronted by an elderly lady waving a publication in front of me, asking if I knew that this had been produced by PG&E. I responded by asking her if she really understood the complexities of energy distribution and why she was taking the position she did. I'm not sure who was more confused; her at being confronted by somebody who did not assume that green was good; or me at the abject lack of understanding she had in what she was promoting.

But sadly the event was only to get worse. After the preliminary items were dispensed with, we reached item 9 on the agenda, the loan guarantee. The charade began with a torturous presentation, obviously staged by the chairman of the Marin County Board of Supervisors, who I understand is one of the founding advocates of the Marin Energy Authority. When it came to question time by the board of the presenters, the framing of the question on risk was quite transparent in its need to position PG&E as the problem.

Then it came to the turn of the public. Because of the number of people who wished to speak, time was limited to one minute per speaker. Most people had come prepared with a written statement, quite obviously never intended for one minute. I have seldom seen such well motivated people, for a good principle, know so little of what they were advocating, and quite so confused when it came to condensing their pre-prepared remarks.

There was a moment of hope when a coherent member of the public brought it to the attention of the board, that not a single executive of the Marin Energy Authority had a resume which included energy management, energy production or energy distribution. What regular investors would invest in such a management team? But seeing the bored looks on the faces of the supervisors I realized that the decision had long since been made.

It was no surprise when the board proceeded to approve the proposal.

The one good outcome was that a few individuals, I guess concerned that the board might weaken in its decision in the presence of a little common sense, offered to stand guarantee for a portion of the amount themselves. The residents of the Marin County now stand to lose somewhat less than might have been.

When residents start to see financial incentives from PG&E, either to remain as customers, or when the results of technical innovation from PG&E materializes, questions are going to be asked. In the interim we encourage all our readers to become informed, and to understand the significant investments PG&E are making in the smart grid.

Being green does not mean an abandonment of sound financial thinking. In fact it is quite the opposite. Green means efficiency and efficiency means reduced prices. We must not let our emotions get ahead of our logic. The reliable supply of electricity is not simple, and to place it in the hands of those with limited experience, thinking that they will serve us well, is a mistake.

On February 21st open4energy published a formal apology and retraction - revised opinion of the above, and sent a revised letter to the Mill Valley City Council.