California Public utility & electrical workers running misinformation campaign

[Editor:  My home town, Benicia, California, has elected to join Marin Clean Energy as its electricity provider of choice.  Under California law, the current public utility, Pacific Gas and Electricity (PGE) now must compete with “Community Choice Aggregations” (CCA’s).   This week, a major regional supporter of PGE, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) sent out mailers to homes in Benicia full of misinformation.  The following letter from the MCE staff to their Board of Directors helps sift through the misinformation and the history behind it.  – RS]

Repost from an email, Thu 6/4/2015 11:49 AM

Dear all,

We just circulated the below email to our board regarding the misinformation campaign.  It provides context for the flyer and IBEW’s opposition to public power agencies.   Please feel free to use this information on NextDoor or in any other communications.  And let me know if you have any questions.

Thank you again for your support!


Allison Hang
MCE Account Manager 

From: Jamie Tuckey [] Sent: Thursday, June 04, 2015 10:54 AM
Subject: Misinformation Campaign Circulating Against MCE

Dear MCE Board of Directors,

On Monday the IBEW 1245 (International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers) issued the attached press release and proposed San Francisco ballot measure to stifle efforts to launch Clean Power SF (San Francisco’s proposed community choice aggregation program). The press release accuses MCE of falsely advertising our power as green, citing that we purchase brown, fossil-fuel power from Shell Oil and market it as green power. The information being distributed by the IBEW is misleading and confusing and seems designed to generate an emotional response from consumers to halt any further competition against PG&E.

Yesterday the attached mailer from the IBEW 1245, which makes similar arguments as the press release and encourages customers to opt out of MCE, was distributed in Richmond and Benicia. We are unaware of any mailers going out in our other member communities.

It is worth pointing out that while IBEW leadership has chosen to use the dues of their members for misinformation mailers in MCE communities where there is choice in power suppliers, and for a ballot initiative in a community that is seeking to allow choice, it is unlikely that the hundreds of IBEW workers who built solar and wind projects for MCE in the last year would vote in favor of that use of their dues.

Please see the information below that clears up the misinformation and provides insight as to why the IBEW would do this.

Facts to explain and respond to the IBEW ballot Initiative and misleading mailer:

What is the IBEW?

  • The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 1245 is a very large union whose members perform electrical work, such as power line maintenance, across California and Nevada. Of their 18,000 member employees, approximately 2/3 are employed by PG&E.

What is the intent of the IBEW’s San Francisco ballot initiative?

  • The IBEW’s ballot initiative is attempting to rewrite the definition of renewable energy so that no out of state supply would qualify as renewable. However, their proposed changes would not limit PG&E from marketing nuclear power as ‘green’.
  • The IBEW wishes to promote California sources of renewable energy because it wishes to promote jobs for its members.  While this is valuable, it should be presented in a clear way and should be considered together with the other goals of a power portfolio, such as greenhouse gas content, public safety, price and local economic benefits.

Why is the IBEW marketing against Clean Power SF and MCE?

  • The IBEW and its primary employer, PG&E, have demonstrated a strong interest in maintaining the power supply structure of the past which was centralized and controlled by a monopoly.
  • PG&E has a history of using misinformation and dollars, and the California ballot initiative process to confuse customers.


  • The IBEW has a history of using misinformation and legal threats to stop municipalization and community choice across California. While IBEW 1245 claims that they are not opposed to community choice programs, they have opposed every community choice or municipalization effort in the last 15 years that might fracture PG&E, including:

o   Opposition to San Francisco municipalization efforts in 2001-2002

o   Opposition to SMUD expansion into Yolo County in 2006

o   Opposition to San Joaquin CCA efforts in 2007

o   Opposition to CleanPowerSF in 2013 and onward

o   Opposition to Sonoma Clean Power in 2014

o   Opposition to Davis Municipalization in 2014

o   Financing 2014 campaigns of politicians who will oppose CCA

o   … and of course, current hostility towards MCE

  • The IBEW has pushed aggressively for jobs even when it means squeezing out other trades and local labor from renewable projects by insisting their electricians have a monopoly on work, even unpacking and carrying solar panels across the work site.

Does MCE support unions and local jobs?

  • Yes. As of December 31, 2014, MCE’s contracted power projects have supported more than 2,400 California jobs.
  • MCE has adopted a Sustainable Workforce Policy that supports union labor, fair wages, local labor and apprenticeship programs.
  • In the last year 750,000 union work hours have been invested in MCE renewable projects.
  • MCE has contracted more than $200,000 with RichmondBUILD, the Marin City Community Development Corporation, and Rising Sun Energy Center to train and provide workers to help implement energy upgrades for our energy efficiency programs.
  • MCE has contracted with Schneider Electricto employ IBEW union workers that install energy efficiency load-control devices for MCE customer homes under the My Energy Insightprogram.
  • MCE’s first local solar feed-in tariff project at the San Rafael Airport was built with a local development and design team, local labor, and workforce trainees from the Marin City Community Development Corporation.
  • MCE’s largest local solar project in development requires prevailing wage and local labor, and MCE is working with RichmondBUILD to ensure locally trained workers are employed for the project.

What is MCE’s relationship with Shell? Where does MCE get its power?  

  • Shell Energy North America (SENA) is one of 14 power suppliers that MCE has contracts with. MCE entered into a contract with SENA in 2010 because, of the options that we had available, they allowed us to launch service with the highest amount of renewable energy and were the only company to offer stable rates.
  • The contract with SENA is scheduled to terminate at the end of 2017. As we approach that time, more of our energy comes from other suppliers and less of our energy purchases come from SENA.
  • All of MCE’s long-term contracts (5-25 years) are with non-SENA providers and are for renewable energy supply in California.

Does MCE ‘slam’ customers? What is ‘slamming’?

  • No, MCE does not ‘slam’ customers, but starts service for customers according to state law.
  • The term “slamming” is used to get an emotional response and refers to an illegal practice of switching a consumers transitional wireline telephone company for another service without permission. It was a contentious issue in the late 80s when telephone companies would falsely notify another telephone company that their customer had elected to switch their service.

What is a REC?

  • A Renewable Energy Certificate (REC) is created when one megawatt-hour of renewable energy is generated and added to the electric grid. As the US Environmental Protection Agency describes it, “The REC product is what conveys the attributes and benefits of the renewable electricity, not the electricity itself.”
  • All energy companies in California must use RECs to track and report any renewable energy purchase made.
  • A REC can be purchased ‘bundled’ together with the corresponding electrons or ‘unbundled’ representing the green attribute of the power but without the corresponding electrons.
  • Many unbundled RECs purchased in California correspond to power produced out of state.
  • The IBEW has argued that bundled renewables do not have RECs and represent real power reaching customers’ homes and businesses – make no mistake that bundled renewable resources are also tracked via RECs. The bundled renewables are loaded onto the grid but customers receive substitute power at their homes and businesses based on the most proximal resources. This is the nature of the electric grid and energy markets.
  • The IBEW’s concerns about the usage of unbundled RECs appear to be limited to programs competing with their primary employer, PG&E. Power providers across the state, including PG&E, have long used unbundled RECs in far greater volumes than are used by MCE.

Does MCE use RECs?

  • Yes. In 2014, 30% of MCE’s power supply was from unbundled RECs, mostly sourced from wind farms in the pacific northwest (such as Oregon and Washington State), and 27% of MCE’s power supply was from bundled REC purchases from renewable energy produced in California.
  • In 2015, MCE’s unbundled REC purchases will reduce to 15% of its power supply and bundled, in-state purchases will increase to 35%. This increase is caused by new California renewable energy projects becoming operational for MCE in 2015 as described below. This transition to new California supply has been planned and in progress since MCE’s launch.

Fact: MCE buys California power and supports new power development.

  • MCE buys power in California through many suppliers.
  • MCE has committed $515.9 million to 195 MW of new California renewable energy projects. This includes $353.9 million for solar, $44.7 million for wind, and $117.2 million for waste-to-energy projects.
  • Attached is the current list of all California renewable resources currently under contract with MCE. Some projects that have already come online including:

o   RE Kansas, 20 MW Solar, King County, operational in December 2014

o   Cottonwood, 23 MW Solar, Kern County, operational in May 2015

o   Rising Tree, 99 MW Wind, Kern County, operational in May 2015

Fact: MCE offers more renewable and greenhouse gas free content than PG&E.

  • MCE’s greenhouse gas emissions are lower than PG&E and MCE’s renewable content is higher than PG&E.  Both have been true since MCE’s launch five years ago.
  • Since May 2010, MCE customers have reduced more than 59,421 tons of greenhouse gas emissions, equivalent to:

o   removing 12,500 cars from the road for one year,

o   the carbon sequestered by 48,705 acres of U.S. forests in one year, or

o   eliminating the energy use of 5,422 homes for one year.

Fact: MCE offers lower rates.

  • MCE has saved customers over $6 million due to lower rates and offers programs to help customers save even more on energy bills.

Fact: MCE is creating demand for local renewable energy projects.

To date, 5 new local renewable projects are under contract with MCE. These include:

    • 1 MW solar project in San Rafael (San Rafael Airport)
    • 10.5 MW solar project in Richmond (Chevron brownfield)
    • 1.5 MW solar project in Novato (Cooley Quarry)
    • 1 MW solar project in Novato (Buck Institute)
    • 4 MW landfill waste-to-energy project in Novato (Redwood Landfill)

Jamie Tuckey
MCE Director of Public Affairs