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Clean Energy not so green

I read Craig Rippens’ May 13 letter about Marin Clean Energy and was left somewhat confused by his conclusion: “I’m sticking with the program.”

He apparently made this decision even though he now knows “that the clean electricity spewing from my sockets is at least as dirty as that provided by PG&E.”

I need to tell him it is dirtier than that provided by PG&E.

As an engineer with over 40 years experience in the electric utility industry, I would like to inform all MCE customers that only 29 percent of the power provided by MCE is “clean” when clean is defined as CO2-free.

This is based on the postcard sent out about a year ago. When that is compared to the same information on that postcard about PG&E, 47 percent of the power PG&E provides is CO2-free.

The generation mix of a public utility is driven by many factors other than “green and renewable” considerations. Solar does not work at night, wind does not always blow when needed and eliminating large hydro from the definition of renewable further complicates the matter.

Then you have the issue of wind power requiring 32 times more space per kilowatt of generation capacity than a nuclear plant.

In 2011 MCE generated 99,142 megawatt hours, per its documents. On an annual basis, this represents about 14 megawatts of generation capacity based on an 80 percent availability factor at 100 percent output. This is a little over 0.2 percent of PG&E-owned generation facilities.

So the MCE staff should be happy that Mr. Rippens and others like him are “sticking with the program.” And their customers should sleep better knowing now that the majority of the electricity they are provided is the cleanest and most reliable in the state because the majority of it ultimately comes from PG&E.

Terry V. Molloy, Novato