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Richmond: Public outreach to inform residents of renewable energy options

RICHMOND – Representatives from Marin Energy Authority told the City Council on Tuesday they plan to ramp up efforts this year to educate the public about their options for switching to a renewable energy provider.

The community outreach is critical,” said MEA community outreach representative Alex DiGiorgio. “The purpose is to empower people with a choice they didn’t have before.”

The council voted in June to join a consortium of cities switching residential and commercial electric service from Pacific Gas & Electric to MEA, which derives 50 percent of its energy from wind and solar sources. The goal of the community outreach plan is to inform customers of their choice to purchase electric energy from MCE or continue with PG&E.

Per state law, residents and businesses must opt out of MEA electricity by mail, email or phone, or will be enrolled in the new program in July.

A total of five opt out notices will be mailed to each customer before July, with the first coming in April, according to a city staff report.

DiGiorgio said MEA electricity will be slightly cheaper, with the average resident paying $81.30 per month, down from $82.90 from PG&E.

Councilman Corky Booze noted that MEA could not guarantee that in the future their rates will not exceed those of PG&E.

“When you want to raise your rates, you can do it,” Booze said.

But DiGiorgio said that PG&E also can raise rates, and
that Richmond will be guaranteed to have a member on the MEA board to provide input on rates. Residents can also switch back to PG&E.

“Competition can restrain prices,” DiGiorgio said.

DiGiorgio said that in addition to mailers, MEA will host several town hall meetings to spread the news to the public between now and April.

Customers that do not opt out of the new plan will be automatically enrolled in MCE’s “Light Green” 50 percent renewable energy program, with the other 50 percent coming from existing electricity on the energy grid. Customers may also choose to enroll in MCE’s “Deep Green” program, which provides 100 percent renewable energy, for about $5 per month more, he said.

MEA is a nonprofit corporation that provides energy to 13 cities and counties, including San Rafael, Sausalito, Marin County and Fairfax. Richmond is the largest member.

Although there was vociferous community concern before the council vote to join MEA last year, there was little Tuesday.

“I welcome this organization because they challenge the status quo,” said Dameion King, a local business owner. “We are embracing innovation.”

For questions about the program, residents can contact MEA officials at info@mcecleanenergy.com.