More Customers Than Expected Stay with Marin Public Power Program

Fewer ratepayers than expected are dropping out of a new public-power program in Marin County, a development that could prove a harbinger for a similar initiative in San Francisco.

The North Bay Business Journal reports that about 16 percent of eligible customers in Marin have opted out of the county's "community choice aggregation" program, which allows municipal governments to procure and sell their own electricity to consumers, supplanting private utilities. That's less than the 25 percent projected to drop out of the program, according to the Business Journal.

Marin County is on its way to procuring its own power. And, yes, that is Morgan Freeman.
Under CCA programs, power customers are automatically enrolled in the CCA program adopted by their local government, and then must take steps to remove themselves if they wish to stay with their old electricity service. (In most parts of the Bay Area, that's PG&E.) San Francisco is also pursuing a CCA program, called CleanPowerSF, but is having difficulties finalizing a contract.

San Francisco has been rushing to get its program in order before tomorrow's vote on PG&E-backed Proposition 16, which, if successful, would require a two-thirds popular vote to enact any government-run power system. Proponents of CCA say the program enables consumers and their elected officials to secure more environmentally friendly power sources, but critics point out that the program could also mean higher electricity rates.

The lower-than-predicted dropout rate in Marin could be seen as good news for CCA there and in San Francisco; more customers make for a more viable business model. Then again, since CCA is "opt-out" rather than "opt-in" -- a provision that has long been criticized by opponents -- it's impossible to know how many folks simply stayed in the program due to ignorance.

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