Supes launch clean power program
The Sonoma County Board of Supervisors took the first formal step Tuesday toward creation of a Community Choice Aggregation Program to provide Sonoma County power customers with an alternative source of clean energy.
The board voted unanimously to create a Joint Powers Authority, to be called the Sonoma Clean Power Authority, that will – in theory, contract with a range of power suppliers for the cheapest and greenest energy available.
Success of the program, which mirrors one already launched in Marin County, will depend on the rates that can be negotiated and the willingness of rate-payers to experiment through what could be a period of uncertainty.
The Community Choice Aggregation model was the target of a PG&E statewide initiative in 2010 that sought to limit the rights of local governments to enter the energy business in competition with PG&E. The giant utility spent a reported $46 million to pass the measure, but it was rejected by more than 52 percent of the electorate.
Creation of the Sonoma Clean Power Authority is just the first step in a long process that could take as much as a year. Potential rates for members of the authority aren’t yet known, but bids are expected to be solicited soon and could be known within a month.
Until that happens, there are not likely to be any municipal members of the JPA.
The Sonoma City Council has received two presentations about the proposal from the Sonoma County Water Agency, which has played the lead role in developing the proposal.
But according to City Manager Linda Kelly, the city “has not yet taken a position on joining the JPA. At this time, it is my understanding that the JPA does not have an identified source of start-up financing, and is still researching options in that regard.”
Kelly added that, until the JPA is operational and is soliciting proposals from potential power suppliers, “the city will not know the potential utility rates that would apply to our residents.”
The stated goals of the Sonoma Clean Power Authority include securing lower power rates, greenhouse gas reductions resulting from a “greener,” less carbon-intensive power portfolio, job creation through the implementation of local efficiency and power projects, and local control.
At the appropriate point in the process, the cities in Sonoma County may be taking up the decision as to whether to join the program in order to allow their residents to become customers of the new CCA.
As noted in the county’s staff report on this item, the goals of the CCA include securing lower power rates, greenhouse gas reductions resulting from a “greener,” less carbon-intensive power portfolio, job creation through the implementation of local efficiency and power projects, and local control.
Kelly currently sits on the steering committee for the Community Choice Aggregation, which consists of representatives from all the cities of Sonoma County, the county government, the Regional Climate Protection Authority, Climate Protection Campaign, the Agricultural Preservation and Open Space District, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, the Santa Rosa Board of Public Utilities, the Sierra Club, and representatives from private industry.
Shirlee Zane, chair of the Board of Supervisors, said of the board vote, “The steps taken today by our board will move us forward with developing the final pieces needed to make a determination regarding the Sonoma Clean Power Program. Sonoma Clean Power can provide multiple benefits to our community. These include greenhouse gas reductions resulting from greener, less carbon-intensive energy sources as well as job creation through the implementation of local efficiency and power projects, and local control.”
In establishing Sonoma Clean Power, the board also approved a $50,000 funding agreement with the Marin Energy Authority to provide consulting services during development of the program. The Marin Energy Authority runs the Community Choice Aggregation program in Marin County and will share its expertise and authority with the Sonoma start-up.
The Sonoma Clean Power Program would provide for the purchase of power generation within the service area of its customers. Transmission, distribution, customer service and billing would remain the same, delivered through PG&E. Customers within the service area could opt out of the program and continue to receive their power through PG&E.