CLOSE TO HOME: Is Marin Clean Energy a good model? No

  • This artwork by Paul Tong relates to efforts to improve green and solar energy.

Sonoma Clean Power is using the Marin Clean Energy template, where local jobs, local energy and reduced greenhouse gas emissions form a grand vision. Here's what Marin isn't telling Sonoma.

<NO1><NO>Marin Clean Energy launched amid dramatic greenhouse gas reduction promises that all but vanished. Marin Clean Energy's 2010 "Renewable by choice" countywide presentation showed 175,000 tons "per year" of greenhouse gas reductions for 2011. Marin Clean Energy's website subsequently identified only 15,420 tons and soon all references to "per year" reductions were gone. Marin Clean Energy then claimed its 175,000-ton commitment was "cumulative."

<NO1><NO>Marin Clean Energy rebranded itself last year, announcing it had nearly doubled its renewable energy content. How? Renewable energy certificates. Marin Clean Energy opened the REC floodgates on unknowing consumers who believed they were receiving clean energy when they got the opposite.

Renewable energy credits are an inexpensive financial shell-game that actually increases greenhouse gas by adding demand to dirty plants. Marin Clean Energy adds demand by purchasing low-cost system power (loaded with coal and gas-fired energy), wallpapering it with RECs and reporting it as "clean" energy. Asthma sufferers take note. Those power plants generating Marin Clean Energy's actual electricity continue pumping tons of greenhouse gases into the air.

After originally identifying RECs for "potential" or "transitional" use, Marin Clean Energy's renewable energy credit purchases skyrocketed.

<NO1><NO>Marin Clean Energy is now under pressure to deliver on its Marin-based renewables commitment. It touts the San Rafael airport's privately financed solar farm, but this project delivers less than one-fifth of 1 percent of Marin Clean Energy's annual energy. Marin Clean Energy hopes to construct 14 megawatts of its own solar, enough to handle 2percent of its annual load. Cost projections are upwards of $70 million. Agriculture-zoned land is in the crosshairs of planners.

Marin Clean Energy sold Marin on its commitment to "redirect" money from PG&E back to Marin County. After making that pledge, Marin Clean Energy exported millions of dollars. It entered into a multi-million dollar contract with a foreign oil company (Marin Clean Energy recently extended that contract), then executed a $190 million solar contract with the world's largest nuclear power company,<NO1><NO> Electricit?de France.

The promise of local jobs remains just that. Marin Clean Energy declines to divulge how many jobs it has created. Aside from its own staff, Marin Clean Energy appears to have produced no net-new full-time jobs, although it continues pounding that drum.

<NO1><NO>But Marin Clean Energy's ultimate failure is its self-serving priority. Its executive officer is paid $250,000 per year. Her two lieutenant-consultants make $320,000 and $240,000 a year. Consumers wonder why Marin Clean Energy feathers its own nest rather than providing the lowest possible prices (without regard to PG&E prices).

If Sonoma Clean Power wants to achieve its goals, it needs to sever <NO1><NO>all ties with Marin Clean Energy and rid itself of MCE's consultants. It needs to hire executives who are self-governing, without ties to Sonoma Clean Power's architects or Sonoma County Water Agency. Then <NO1><NO>it needs to come clean with municipalities and show prices before pressuring them to commit to a black box.

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