Taking a small step into the energy future, the City of Sonoma voted last week to become the first jurisdiction in Sonoma County, and perhaps the North Bay, to adopt the zero-emissions EverGreen plan from Sonoma Clean Power.
The optional premium plan, which uses 100 percent local renewable power sources for providing kilowatts to the city’s 42 electrical accounts, will cost the city more money than the standard CleanStart program – which uses 36 percent renewable energy – but supporters believe that it may help the city meet one of its current term goals of advancing Climate Action 2020, a countywide plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. And perhaps provide a boost in bragging rights.
“I’m not fond of paying more money for things, but I figure we’ll get between a quarter and half million dollars in free advertising because of this,” said Councilmember Gary Edwards, who sided with his four colleagues to produce a unanimous vote for the plan at the Oct. 3 council meeting.
Sonoma Clean Power (SCP), the regional alternative utility formed in 2014 under the state’s Community Choice Aggregation law, declares that the EverGreen plan is comprised of 100 percent local renewable resources, entirely geothermal energy from the Calpine's The Geysers facility in northern Sonoma County, east of Geyserville. SCP plans to add the delivery of locally-generated solar power to the mix next year.
“The conversion to EverGreen is a wonderful beginning and I am so proud of the Council for their leadership,” said City Manager Carol Giovanatto. But the plan will cost Sonoma $19,200 more than sticking with CleanStart, according to Giovanatto, who presented the proposal to the City Council. Of that, $6,500 will come from the general fund, $8,500 from the gas tax fund and $4,200 from the water fund.
Giovanatto said that the EverGreen plan had been considered earlier, but the City was in the midst of the LED conversion project for its streetlights. That upgrade, which will lead to $70,000 in energy savings from the old sodium lights, had to be completed before comparative budgeting could provide a realistic cost for converting from CleanStart to EverGreen plans.
In presenting the plan, the city suggested that implementing it would put Sonoma in the vanguard of commitment to renewable power. Certainly it’s the first jurisdiction in SCP’s coverage area – which includes Mendocino County but does not include the City of Healdsburg, which has its own power utility (also based on geothermal energy from The Geysers).
Kate Kelly, of Sonoma Clean Power, said the utility is also planning to bring on-line locally generated solar power in 2017 that will be added to the “100 percent local renewable” mix of the EverGreen plan. EverGreen is an option for all residential and businesses; it is currently only used by a little over one half of one percent of all SCP accounts.
Tom Conlon, of Transition Sonoma Valley, was enthusiastic but guarded about the move, and applauded the city’s leadership. “The Council’s unanimous vote is a drop in the bucket compared to all we need to do to fight climate change. But it shows they realize we need their leadership on this issue,” he said.
Conlon was one of a handful of speakers during public comment at the Oct. 4 City Council meeting – all of whom spoke in favor of the conversion. He even suggested at the time that this might make Sonoma the first city in the state to use 100 percent renewable power in its civic energy usage, though he later amended that to 100 percent locally-generated as other cities, such as Santa Monica, Atherton and Menlo Park, may have beaten Sonoma to the proverbial punch by committing to 100 percent renewable power, but their Community Choice utilities include small amounts of non-local energy sources.