Marin Independent Journal
Last month, an unprecedented winter storm swept across the United States, creating frigid temperatures in Texas and widespread power outages.
This started what’s now referred to as the Texas power crisis, raising questions about how our electricity system works and which regions might be next to endure such an event.
For California residents, this hits close to home. Many of us remember the rolling brownouts of the late 1990s, and the reemergence of this issue last fall when several extreme heat storms rocked the state. If it could happen in Texas, could it happen here?
Renewable energy has been blamed for Texas’ outages. However, the extreme cold weather caused the shutdown of natural gas pipelines and coal facilities that produce almost 70% of the state’s electricity. This, along with deregulated customer rates, and no requirements to have additional generation capacity in reserve, are some of the main causes of the Texas outages.
Each year, Texas customers choose their electricity provider and select a plan. This can be a fixed rate, like what we have in California, or they can choose to participate in the wholesale market, which means being exposed to varying prices based on market conditions. This is different from most of California’s time-of-use rates because the wholesale prices in Texas fluctuate with market value.
After the California energy crisis of 1999-2000, the California Public Utilities Commission doubled down on capacity market regulation, finding ways to reduce capacity risk while increasing consumer choice. In 2002, enabling legislation was passed to allow for Community Choice Aggregation providers. CCAs offer customers increased choice and energy autonomy by providing an alternative to the monopoly investor-owned utility services. Marin Clean Energy was the first CCA program to launch back in 2010. Since then, the CCA model has grown, and now CCAs provide service to more than 11 million customers.
MCE is governed by a board of locally elected officials that help set clean energy targets while creating new programs that help customers save money, reduce air pollution and create a sustainable local workforce. MCE’s rates historically change no more than once a year, and MCE has not increased rates since 2019. If we were to increase rates, a minimum 30-day customer notification period is required and decisions are made by our Board of Directors in local public hearings with customer input over several months prior to the changes taking effect.
MCE was started by a community committed to environmental justice and clean energy. As a public not-for-profit agency, our customers influence policies and programs through public meetings, ensuring that all people, regardless of race, color, national origin or income, can have a voice.