MARIN COUNTY – The recently implemented Marin Energy Authority is in the spotlight as other communities seek to copy it or join it.

Last week the Environmental Protection Agency named Marin County one of the top 20 power purchasers for local governments.

The Marin agency is being deluged by communities in California and across the nation wanting to imitate the program on a city or county basis, said MEA director Dawn Weisz. Many simply want to join it.

"It's a real demonstration that consumers want to able to purchase renewable energy, even if they have to pay more," said Ms. Weisz.

"At our upcoming retreat we'll be considering how to grow," she said. "Horizontal growth though more members, not necessarily contiguous, is a real possibility."

The MEA will also consider admitting several Marin towns that initially opted not to join the authority, she said.

All of the Marin customers who opted to drop PG&E in favor of the MEA get 25 percent renewable energy from solar, hydro-electric, wind, geothermal and other sources, she said. Others who opt for the Marin Clean Energy program can get 100 percent renewable at about one cent more per kilowatt, she said.

If the clean energy program is fully implemented across the utility's coverage area, it could cut county carbon dioxide emissions by up to 500,000 tons, or 13 percent.

"That would put us just behind Portland, Ore. as the nation's greatest carbon reducer," said Ms. Weisz.

Shell Energy North America provides the MEA's energy. It's delivered over the PG&E grid. PG&E limits the amount of excess energy it will buy back from wind and solar systems, but the MEA will compensate homeowners for unlimited rooftop solar development.

The goal in California is to get 33 percent of its energy from renewables in 10 years. The MEA has leapfrogged that goal, Ms. Weisz said.