Government entities in the North Bay are leading the state with 100 percent renewable electric power.
In October, Marin County was the first in the state to enroll all of its county and city accounts in Marin Clean Energy’s 100 percent renewable electricity program, the company said.
Marin Clean Energy supplies customers with 50 percent to 100 percent renewable energy as an alternative to PG&E.
Called Deep Green, the program now supplies non-polluting wind and solar power for public buildings, streetlights and other civic accounts in the county.
The city and county of Napa also adopted the Deep Green Program in 2017.
The city of Sonoma, and the Sonoma County Water Agency have also transitioned to Sonoma Clean Power’s 100 percent renewable energy program, called Evergreen.
Belvedere was the first of Marin’s municipalities to choose Deep Green in 2010, followed by Fairfax in 2012, and San Anselmo and Sausalito in 2014.
This year Corte Madera, Larkspur, Mill Valley, Novato, Ross, San Rafael, Tiburon, and the County of Marin joined the movement toward 100 percent renewable energy.
The green push gained momentum from there, said J.R. Killigrew, community-development manager.
“Within four to five months the remaining municipalities took similar actions,” he said.
Those actions have also been a catalyst, inspiring local residents and businesses to adopt the program, Killigrew said.
In Marin County, enrollments in Deep Green have increased 62 percent in 10 months, from 2.7 percent in January to more than 4 percent as of October 2017.
Environmental groups and activists provided information to city and town councils, and the County Board of Supervisors, including Environmental Forum of Marin, the Marin Conservation League, Citizen’s’ Climate Lobby (Marin Chapter), Sierra Club (Marin Group), Sustainable San Rafael, Sustainable Novato, Sustainable Fairfax and many others.
“We’re trying to set an example by providing advocacy for what the community wants. All in all it’s helping Marin County to think holistically about climate change,” Killigrew said. “There’s been a wonderful collaboration with community groups to set the county apart.”
Marin County homes, businesses and municipal accounts make up more than half of all Deep Green customers. As of September 2017, MCE reached its goal of having 5 percent of its total electricity load enrolled in the 100 percent renewable program, seven years ahead of its original 2025 target.
“Not only does this contribute more renewable energy to California’s electrical grid, but half of the Deep Green premium collected goes toward building local solar projects in our service area, such as MCE Solar One, a 49-acre solar project in Richmond,” said Dawn Weisz, CEO of MCE. The county has shown that on a local level, we can not only help achieve California’s goal ahead of schedule, we can demonstrate the urgency of acting on climate change now.”
The Richmond project went online the third week of December and will provide 10.5 megawatts of power, enough for 3,000 homes each year.
By 2020, Marin County’s Climate Action Plan aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 30 percent below 1990 levels.
Collectively, Marin County communities have reduced their greenhouse gas emissions by 15 percent since 2005.
Marin County has eliminated an estimated 3,570 metric tons of pollution, or the Environmental Protection Agency equivalent of removing 764 cars from the road in one year, according to MCE.
“While Marin has always been a leader in conservation and sustainability, we think it’s momentous that the county is achieving Gov. Brown’s target of running on 100 percent renewable energy by the end of 2045, almost 28 years ahead of schedule,” said Kalicia Pivirotto, marketing manager at MCE.
100 PERCENT RENEWABLE FOR CALIFORNIA
Pivirotto was referring to Senate Bill 100, which would have tasked state regulators with charting a path to 100 percent carbon-free electricity by 2045.
The bill, put on hold until 2018, would require California to get 60 percent of its electricity from renewable sources such as solar and wind by 2030, up from the current legal mandate of 50 percent.
Hawaii is the only state in the nation that has approved legislation aiming for its utilities to get 100 percent of their electricity from renewable sources by 2045.
Massachusetts is another state that is considering a bill requiring 100 percent renewable-energy use by 2050.
Both of those states consume much less energy and have a smaller footprint than California, however, and there are significant costs, hindrances, and downsides associated with the state transitioning to 100 percent renewable energy.
In 2015, California derived 44 percent of its electrical-energy generation from oil, coal and natural gas.
The state currently imports about 33 percent of its electricity from outside of the state, 6 percent of which is from coal. This is up from 25 percent of energy imported into the state in 2010, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.
California is also the third-largest oil-and-gas-producing state. It produced on average 500,000 barrels of oil per day in 2014, behind Texas and North Dakota.
The oil and gas industry also supports approximately 456,000 jobs in California, which bring roughly $38 billion of income for Californians from well paying oil and gas jobs and accounts.
The delay of SB 100 in September came shortly after unions representing about 120,000 electric and utility workers, which had previously supported the bill, turned their backs on the legislation amid worries over job loss and grid security.
While SB 100 does not necessitate a specific reduction of oil and gas production within the state, it would limit oil and gas use for energy production within the state’s electricity grid.
Although no easy feat for the state, a transition of California’s powerhouse economy to 100 percent renewables within the state electrical grid would set a compelling example for other states to follow.
Cynthia Sweeney covers health care, hospitality, residential real estate, education, employment and business insurance. Reach her at Cynthia.Sweeney@busjrnl.com or call 707-521-4259.