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CLOSE TO HOME: Is Marin Clean Energy a good model? Yes

  • (PAUL TONG / Tribune Media Services)

As city council members in Sonoma County stand on the edge of a clean energy future, I'd like to offer an optimistic perspective from Marin County and hundreds of other communities across the United States that have successfully implemented community choice aggregation in their hometowns.

First, it's important to understand that community choice aggregation is a local energy model that has been around since the 1990s. It is employed in six states with more states considering legislation allowing community choice aggregation. Towns as small as Ashby, Mass, (population 3,100) and cities as large as Chicago (population 2.7 million) have switched to community choice aggregation in large part for cost savings.

Today, nearly 80 percent of households and businesses in Illinois receive electricity through aggregated energy contracts. The Cape Light Compact in Massachusetts and the Northeast Ohio Public Energy Council — both community choice organizations — have operated successfully for over 10 years serving millions of customers combined.

Increasingly, communities such as Marin County, San Francisco and, hopefully, Sonoma County are leveraging the power of community choice aggregation to accelerate our nation's transition to a clean energy economy while providing local jobs and energy programs designed to suit their residents' needs. Such systems are able to achieve this without federal legislation, use of taxpayer funds or expensive government subsidies. Why? Because it redirects existing electricity revenues — to the tune of roughly $180 million annually for the county of Sonoma.

Twenty miles south, Marin Clean Energy, launched in May 2010, is in its third successful year of operations, providing customers with cleaner power at rates competitive with PG&E. With the whole county and the city of Richmond participating, Marin Clean Energy now serves approximately 100,000 customers, and that number is expected to grow.

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