Two days ago, the Marin County Board of Supervisors decided on its top five priorities through 2010, and at the top of the list is Launching a local “green” power authority and supporting a greenhouse gas-reduction initiative.

The power authority, called Marin Clean Energy by its chief proponent, Supervisor Charles McGlashan, is a plan “to create a new green power agency in Marin County. Under MCE, Marin County cities and towns would form a Joint Power Authority which would buy renewable power collectively directly, while PG&E would continue to be responsible for the transmission lines, billing and other duties.

As described on the county government Web site,

Marin Clean Energy would reduce Marin’s greenhouse gas emissions by initially providing twice as much renewable power as we receive now. MCE would also increase price stability over the long term by decreasing our reliance on imported fossil fuels to generate our power. MCE will also fuel small, locally based green businesses. In addition, MCE would enable local decision-making over what kinds of power Marin utilizes.

Cities and towns in Marin County will hold study sessions over the course of this year and citizens will be able to “opt out” of switching over from PG&E service. Of course, PG&E has launched a vigorous mail compaign to contest the local power authority and the local newspaper, the Marin Independent Journal, is questioning the lack of a public referendum on the measure:

This is akin to the government deciding your Internet provider. Or who holds your mortgage or insures your car. The law uses “opt-out” for a simple reason: If customers have to decide which power source they want, there’s a good chance too few users will switch for the power authority to be viable. The law should be changed to allow “opt-in” – to force consumers to make their own choice.

It is too late to change state law for the Marin Clean Energy process to use opt-in.

But it is not too late for the county to put an advisory measure on the ballot – in November when there likely will be record turnout – to find out how voters view the power plan. Each supervisor and council member would know how much support there is in their town or district for the plan. Otherwise, those council members and supervisors will be asked to make a significant and long-term personal financial decision for everyone they represent. If the county refuses to take this step, each city should consider its own advisory vote.