Get Smart about Energy™


We have been following an initiative by the Marin Energy Authority to provide clean energy to the residents of Marin County. I start by stating my skepticism to both the technical capabilities of a small group to produce greener energy than PG&E, and my suspicion of any initiative aligning itself with climate change.

Update November 2011
We have removed the postings relating to conversations between myself and late Charles McGlashan. If anyone would like a copy of the public apology I made please use the Contact us link above to let me know your needs.

Do read the Marin County Civil Grand Jury report suggesting the project "Pull the Plug" for a detailed appraisal.

In the interests of having an open mind I have set these concerns aside, and will be limiting our opinion on this project to matters affecting consumers and small businesses, in particular their ability to save energy. I am a complete supporter of green energy, but I do not believe that this needs to be at the expense of sound economics.

The Marin Energy Authority (MEA) was created in December 2008 and is comprised of the following 8 jurisdictions. City of Belvedere, Town of Fairfax, County of Marin, City of Mill Valley, Town of San Anselmo, City of San Rafael, City of Sausalito and the Town of Tiburon.

For those who are not familiar with the goals of the Marin Energy Authority, the following is taken from their website. "The purpose of the Marin Energy Authority (MEA) is to address climate change by reducing energy related greenhouse gas emissions and securing energy supply, price stability, energy efficiencies and local economic and workforce benefits. It is the intent of the MEA to promote the development and use of a wide range of renewable energy sources and energy efficiency programs, including but not limited to solar and wind energy production at competitive rates for customers."

The first deliverable of MEA is known as Marin Clean Energy (MCE). This is a proposal under consideration by the Marin Energy Authority to buy renewable power collectively directly, while PG&E would continue to be responsible for the transmission lines, billing and other duties.

I will not say I was surprised to see opposition and debate on the merits of the project, but I was taken aback at the level of financial concern being expressed by opponents of the project. We have just received a publication from Common Sense Marin, which links to a disturbing article published by the Marin Independent Journal saying that there are a number of financial issues to be considered.

As a Marin resident, I thought it would be useful for Open4Energy to weigh in on the topic. Our goal will be to bring balanced information to the residents of Marin. We are already seeing the most polarizing and questionable rhetoric being thrown about, little of which seems related to the average consumer's concerns.

Most consumers we have spoken to are concerned about the rising costs of electricity in their homes. I had the pleasure to meet with Andy Tang, a senior executive in PG&E and responsible for their smart grid initiatives. In his presentation he discussed subjects including energy storage, clean energy and projects by which utilities would work together to eliminate distribution losses. Considering the billions of dollars PG&E are investing in a smart grid, and clean energy I find it somewhat strange to read that they are seriously concerned about the activities of a small local utility. I'm not suggesting that PG&E are looking for additional competition in their market but as we investigate the merits of this proposal I do hope we can stay away from irrelevant and emotive arguments.

At the same time, it seems to me that the biggest winners of this project, might be the jobs of yet another council body. This would be of no value to the consumer's in Marin whatsoever. Small-scale energy production has significant downsides in its efficiencies. According to Mr. Tang PG&E already has the most complex challenge in the United States when it comes to integrating rooftop solar energy. What is known as distributed, or edge energy generation.

I would like to understand how this project will work with PG&E and their initiatives for energy storage, and edge energy management.

Further I understand that one of the bigger challenges facing PG&E, will be the supply of energy to meet the upcoming demands of the electric vehicle industry. I have not seen any discussion on how this project will support the standards being proposed by PG&E and the automotive industry. Knowing the Marin residents as we do, it is highly probable that the early adopters of electric vehicles will be here!


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