Seven years ago local officials in Marin County, California organized to form a nonprofit electricity company with the noblest intentions. Buying and selling electricity allowed the group, Marin Clean Energy (MCE), to route around the local utility giant, Pacific Gas & Electric, which for years had resisted its customers’ pleas for cleaner, more reliable power, all the while “greenwashing” its image with marketing campaigns. “People wanted more of a sense of how their dollars were being invested,” Alex DiGiorgio, MCE’s community development manager, tells Capital & Main. “They wanted more access to competitively priced renewable energy.”
They also wanted to “catalyze local project development,” DiGiorgio says, to see their electricity bills go toward something more beneficial for the local community than large hydroelectric dams, polluting gas-fired power plants and a nuclear facility built over an earthquake fault.
But critics of the local-power movement say agencies like MCE — whose very reason for being was to stimulate renewable energy development — mostly support already extant renewable facilities.