NORTH BAY – One in six energy customers -- or about 16 percent -- in the first phase of the changeover from PG&E to the Marin Energy Authority have opted out of the local program.

Of the 8,252 customers who were noticed for Phase I, 1,330 opted out and 6,922 are enrolled.

“Our implementation plan was based on a 25 percent opt-out rate,” said Leslie Alden, aide to Supervisor Charles McGlashan, chair of Marin Energy Authority.

“We wanted to be as conservative in our planning as possible. But our agency could actually withstand a more substantial hit without undue injury.”

This is the first phase of the “community choice aggregation,” or CCA, which provides power to residents as an alternative to the current power provider.

CCA was established by California Assembly Bill 117 in 2002, which gave cities and counties the authority to procure electricity on behalf of customers within their jurisdictions.

A CCA is typically set up so PG&E would deliver the electricity, read the electric meters and issue bills. But generation of electricity and the price would be determined locally.

Marin Energy Authority is the agency providing the renewable energy alternative to PG&E’s current offerings through the Marin Clean Energy program.

The authority was created in December 2008 to address climate change by attempting to reduce energy-related greenhouse gas emissions. The authority said it intends to address issues relating to securing energy supply, price stability and energy efficiencies.

The opt-out notices are mailed two times before the beginning of service and two times after service starts.

“We went live on May 7,” said Ms. Alden. The first opt-out notices were mailed on or about March 3, the second on April 3.

She said the third notice was mailed June 3, timed to arrive in people’s mailboxes no later than 30 days after commencement of service, and the final opt-out notice will be mailed July 3.

Ratepayers have 30 days from that mailing date to make their final decision whether to stay with MEA or opt-out and return to PG&E. They must notify MEA if they choose to opt-out by early August to return to PG&E without any charge. After that date in August, if they have opted-out and decided to go with PG&E, they must remain with PG&E for three years.

Ratepayers can leave MEA at anytime. If they stay in MEA and change their mind after the "grace period," which ends in early August, they may still decide to leave MEA and return to PG&E for a charge of $5.

“The three-year commitment to utility-bundled service only happens when a customer opts out of CCA service after the two 60-day notification periods have expired,” said Andrew Kotch, information officer for California Public Utilities Commission.  The utilities commission is the entity that created the rule about the three year period.

Katie Romans, spokeswoman for PG&E said, “We want to ensure that our customers have clear and accurate information regarding their electricity provider options. If customers wish to remain with PG&E, they must contact the Marin Energy Authority."

She said PG&E will work closely with the Marin Energy Authority to ensure customers receive electricity from their respective provider.