Banking and Finance

Charles Schwab, a provider of full-service brokerage services, announced the opening of a new independent branch in Novato. The branch opened its doors Feb. 15 at 1400 Grant Ave., Ste. 101. The new Novato location is part of a larger franchising initiative Schwab announced in early 2011. The Novato branch is led by Michael Dolan, CFP, a financial services professional with more than 20 years of experience. Previously, Mr. Dolan was an independent financial adviser with Independent Financial Group, LLC.Education

Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom is set to be the speaker for 86th annual commencement for the class of 2013 at College of Marin. The ceremony will be held Friday, May 24, at 6 p.m.Energy

Marin Energy Authority, the first community choice aggregation program in California and electricity supplier of choice to Marin County and Richmond residents, will deploy the P-ECOSYS consumer-engagement platform by San Francisco-based PlanetEcosystems. The energy authority chose the plug-and-play platform for its emphasis on strengthening relationships with the area’s 120,000 households. Components being deployed are a consumer engagement website portal with utility system optimization tools, rebate, financing and vendor management tools, social engagement and other facilities; vendor portal; and administrator portal. PlanetEcosystems also will provide several program activities such as school-based social and gamification techniques to engage students and parents; direct-messaging initiatives that use utility optimization and normative-comparative techniques to motivate consumer action; and several neighborhood-based energy-adviser initiatives. The power provider also announced 52 offers for California renewable energy projects were timely submitted on March 1 in response to its annual procurement process for renewable energy projects. The additional clean energy contracted through these offers will help further reduce energy-related greenhouse gas emissions and advance MCE’s long-term goal of supplying all customers with 100 percent renewable energy. MCE currently has contracts with 10 suppliers for 15 power projects. These projects include 52 megawatts of solar and 8 megawatts of landfill gas -- enough clean energy to power approximately 22,500 homes per year. A substantial number of the open season responses received are for projects in northern California and will help MCE achieve its commitment to increase the percentage of cost-competitive local, regional and in-state renewable energy.Government

County of Marin can now fully fund retiree health benefits just like it does employee pensions by ensuring that funds are set aside for unfunded liabilities as well as current costs. Marin is now in a minority of counties fully funding its retiree health benefits. The county has joined the California Employers’ Retiree Benefit Trust Fund, an optional program offered through the California Public Employees’ Retirement System, in a move to pre-fund employees’ health care.  Agencies can make contributions into the CERBT fund to cover current retiree health care costs as well as unfunded liabilities so participants can use investment earnings to help cover retiree health benefit costs.  Managed by CalPERS staff, CERBT has $2.5 billion from 355 agencies invested in a diversified portfolio that includes bonds, U.S. and international stocks and real estate investment trusts. The county has more than 1,800 active employees and nearly 1,000 retirees to whom it provides health care independent of the CalPERS system.Technology

Agilent Technologies Inc. (NYSE: A) announced that all new Agilent electronic test instruments sold after will be covered by a “bumper-to-bumper” three-year repair warranty. The increase from one year to three years is the result of ongoing quality initiatives that, from 2002 to 2012, yielded unprecedented improvements in product reliability and earned top marks in an independent customer survey rating RF and microwave product quality.Wine Industry

Meadowcroft Wines' Thomas Henry brand received a World-Class Design award from HOW magazine in its 2013 International Design Awards issue. The design team was Shawn Rosenberger and Jennie McGee at Thermostat Design in Berkeley and strategist Erin Fray of Luminous Brands.

Vineyard & Winery Management and The Press Democrat are launching the North Coast Wine Challenge (NorthCoastWineChallenge.com). Entries for the wine competition will be accepted Feb. 26--May 10. Judging will take place May 29--30.

CK Mondavi, a brand owned and operated for 70 years by C. Mondavi & Family, launched a mobile-device-optimized website (ckmondavi.com) to enhance the user experience for wine consumers using smartphones and tablets.The main navigation for the smartphone and tablet experience was created around the oak tree that is featured on the CK Mondavi wine label. The navigation displays wine information, food and wine pairings, vineyard information, wine accolades, CK Mondavi family history and robust video content.