SAN RAFAEL (CBS 5) – Marin county residents have an important decision to make in the next few weeks. Consumers are being asked to decide if they want to continue buying their power from PG&E, or switch to Marin Clean Energy, a program offered by the Marin Energy Authority, that offers more power from renewable sources at a few dollars more a month.

If residents do not make a choice, they’ll automatically be enrolled in the M.E.A. program starting in July.

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The switch, which has been years in the making, is catching many residents by surprise. Among them, Lori Rinker of Larkspur.

“It was like I didn’t know anything about it, and all of a sudden it was foist on us,” Rinker told ConsumerWatch.

“It was a way to give us a running start,” said Dawn Weisz, director of the Marin Energy Authority.

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Weisz said the state law that created the agency four years ago mandated the opt-out approach in order to help make the program viable. She said the agency is required to send at least four notices to customers letting them know how to opt out.

The Marin Clean Energy program offers two options. One that offers 50% renewable energy, called “Light Green.” The other offers 100% renewable energy and is called “Deep Green.” Right now, about 20% of PG&E’s energy mix is from renewable sources, according to Public Utility Commission records.

“It’s a dramatic increase in the amount of renewable power being provided to customers,” said Steven Weissman, director of U.C. Berkeley’s Center for Law, Energy and the Environment. He said nothing’s for sure in the energy markets, but believes over time, Marin Clean Energy’s rates should be comparable to P.G. and E’s.

“I don’t think you’re going to have a significantly different bill,” Weissman told ConsumerWatch.

No matter what choice Marin residents make, PG&E will continue to handle billing, delivery of electricity, repairs and maintenance.

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