This past week, I had the opportunity to interview Jamie Tuckey, the Communications Director at Marin Clean Energy. Marin Clean Energy is a public, not-for-profit electricity provider, founded in 2010, that utilizes renewable energy resources for electricity. The green organization has partnered up with PG&E, Pacific Gas and Electric Company, to provide citizens of Marin County with “clean energy”. So far, Marin Clean Energy is unique in that it is the first and only operating program of its kind in California. Although many Marin residents do not realize it, they are already customers of Marin Clean Energy. Back in 2010, when MCE and PG&E partnered up, all Marin customers were automatically switched over to MCE’s “light green” program, which means that some of their electricity comes from renewable resources, such as wind or solar power. Customers received a notice about the switch and were able to, and are still able to, opt out of using MCE if they choose. However, if customers like the idea of utilizing renewable energy resources, they can take their “green-ness” a step further and switch to the “deep green” program. The “deep green” program allows for 100% of their electricity to come from renewable resources.
My first question for Ms. Tuckey was, “What are the benefits, both environmental and economic, of switching to Marin Clean Energy?” Tuckey, both knowledgeable and opinionated about the matter, provided a very informative answer about the advantages of using renewable resources rather than fossil fuels. In a day and age where society is rapidly exhausting energy resources and consuming massive amounts of electricity on a daily basis, there are “huge environmental benefits,” says Tuckey, to taking advantage of abundant and unending supplies, which in this case come from the wind and the sun. Another advantage for the environment, as a result of using clean energy, is that these resources are “nonpolluting,” says Tuckey, and will end up “reducing greenhouse gas emissions and our carbon footprint.” With the burning of fossil fuels, greenhouse gas emissions have been on the rise for a long time and it has led to an “increased concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.” By harnessing wind and solar energy, there is a great decrease in the gas emissions, therefore reducing the carbon footprint that we make in the world. Answering the economic facet of the question, Tuckey described how there are numerous benefits not only for the customer, but also for the community. By staying on the “light green” program, Tuckey explained that it is a “little bit cheaper than regular PG&E and you will save $1 a month.” However, even more financial advantages are available from switching to the “deep green” program where customers will save an average of “$7 to $14 a month.” All in all, Tuckey explains, “The rates at MCE are stable” and don’t fluctuate much.
In the Marin community, MCE has actively provided people with jobs and will continue to do so with future projects. Tuckey recounts how in 2012, Marin Clean Energy partnered up with other local businesses to build “the largest solar project in Marin County at the San Rafael Airport.” Through the project, twenty new local jobs were created. MCE has plans for future similar projects, which will also provide jobs for people. The organization is very involved in aiding and giving back to the Marin community. Along with supporting other local environmental organizations through sponsorships and donations, MCE “reinvests a portion of ratepayer dollars to fund local projects and programs.” It is evident that Marin Clean Energy cares not only about their cause, but the causes of other organizations as well.
I continued the interview by asking Tuckey whether or not, in the future, she envisions clean energy being the primary source of energy in America. Tuckey has a very optimistic outlook on the matter and said, “I do, I hope so… I can see we are already making the shift.” Already, in the last three years, MCE’s “light green” program has steadily grown to incorporate more renewable energy. In the beginning, customers on the “light green” program were provided with 27% clean energy and the rest from PG&E. The next year, the percentage of clean energy increased to over 30%, and now the percentage of clean energy is 50%. The numbers have steadily increased because of the demand; customers want to be environmentally aware. At this rate, Tuckey believes that there is a great possibility that the trend will continue and result in more and more people switching over to clean energy. Already, Marin Clean Energy is expanding its service over to the Richmond area and will gain thousands of more customers. So far, there are six states with programs similar to Marin Clean Energy, and for clean energy to be more accessible to more people these programs must spread. The key is community outreach and advertising to get the word out there. Tuckey recognizes that to obtain renewable energy resources is a bit more expensive than burning fossil fuels, mostly due to that fact, “it is a hurdle to get funding and financing.” However, the end result of reducing pollution, greenhouse gas emissions, and our carbon footprint would be well worth the trouble of getting funding. Another reason the venture is worthwhile is because there is a diverse supply of renewable energy types that are easily harnessed with the correct equipment. Above all, these resources are plentiful and unending, unlike the fossil fuels that are primarily used.
Fortunately in Marin, we are automatically provided with this program and benefit from it greatly. The majority of people in the rest of the country aren’t provided with such a luxury because it is hard to find funding and some people find the issue controversial. Tuckey believes that an organization such as Marin Clean Energy works best on a local level because of all the local benefits it has, such as giving back to the community and reinvesting money in local businesses. However, she says that it can be designed to work on a larger scale, which is what would have to happen for clean energy to be the primary source of energy in the country. Ultimately, Tuckey strongly supports switching to clean energy because it will have both environmental and economic benefits for the customer and the community.