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Bidders for Sonoma County public power agency narrowed to 4

By BRETT WILKISON
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Four energy companies have emerged from a group of 11 competing to become the main electricity supplier to Sonoma County’s planned public power agency.

The short list of candidates, released Friday by the county, does not include Shell Energy North America, a subsidiary of the Dutch fossil fuel giant and the controversial main supplier to both Marin County’s public power program and the proposed agency in San Francisco.

It also does not include Calpine Corp., the Houston-based operator of The Geysers, the geothermal field on the Sonoma-Lake county border that supplies about a quarter of California’s renewable energy.

The four final candidates are:

• NRG Energy, based in Houston and Princeton, New Jersey, one of the country’s largest power producers and retailers.

• Direct Energy, an energy retailer based in Canada and the U.S., a subsidiary of the British multinational Centrica.

• ConEdison Solutions, based in Valhalla, New York, a subsidiary of Consolidated Edison.

• Constellation, a power and natural gas supplier and subsidiary of Exelon, the Chicago energy producer, trader and distributor.

The list was disclosed four days before the county begins a series of public presentations before local city councils urging them to join the power agency. County officials have said they intend to award a power-supply contract by September and begin delivery to homes and businesses Jan. 1.

power linesThe county power plan has been under study since 2011 and was tentatively approved for the unincorporated areas of the county last week by the Board of Supervisors. It is built on the assumption that customers — who can opt out of the proposed system — prefer an alternative to Pacific Gas and Electric designed to rely more heavily on renewable energy, shrink the county’s carbon footprint and promote local generation projects that provide jobs.

Billing, metering, transmission, grid repair and customer service would remain with PG&E regardless of any county program.

Ten companies and one nonprofit agency submitted bids for the initial contract to provide electricity to the program. The proposed contract term is three years, with an estimated worth of about $340 million.

The responses, received early last month, came mostly from large national and multi-national energy suppliers.

Cordel Stillman, deputy chief engineer for the county Water Agency and the lead staff member on the proposal, said Friday that the final list of companies was selected based on four main criteria: power prices; start-up assistance to the county program, including financial assistance; bond ratings; and programs to promote energy efficiency and power usage that lower customer bills.

Strong political opposition to Shell Energy North America, voiced especially by labor and environmental representatives, did not factor in the decision, Stillman said.

Calpine was not selected, he said, because its proposal was partly tied to future expansion at The Geysers. The company has approvals for two planned plants, worth an estimated $700 million and capable of generating about 100 megawatts, or just under a third of the peak demand the county would need to serve its targeted 220,000 meters — about 80 percent of PG&E’s customer base in the county.

But with the rollout set to begin in January, Stillman said Calpine “wasn’t a good fit for right now.”

“We intend to talk to them about what we can do in the future,” he said.

Calpine representatives could not be immediately reached Friday for comment.

Proponents of the public power agency expressed surprise that Shell and Calpine did not make the short list.

Shell’s elimination erases a potential liability, they said. “I’m not necessarily sad that Shell is not on the list because politically it’s a problem,” said Ann Hancock, executive director of Santa Rosa-based Climate Protection Campaign, an advocacy group supporting the proposal.

Representatives of Shell Energy North America could not be reached immediately for comment Friday.

Hancock withheld further reaction about the short list, saying she had not yet studied the selected companies.

Jack Buckhorn, a local labor leader and business manager for 750 North Bay electricians in Local 551 of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers said he was “cautiously optimistic” about the final list of companies.

News of the short list triggered a flurry of email messages Friday afternoon among people and groups who’ve provided input on the county power plan, Buckhorn said.

While the list doesn’t raise any alarms, he said, little is known about the companies’ bids. The county has refused to publicly disclose any of the 11 responses, contending they could undermine negotiations with an eventual winning bidder.

“There are a lot of factors that we need to look at before we say this is a good deal for the taxpayers and the ratepayers,” Buckhorn said.

(You can reach Staff Writer Brett Wilkison at 521-5295 or brett.wilkison@pressdemocrat.com.)





14 Responses to “Bidders for Sonoma County public power agency narrowed to 4”

  1. For Real says:

    The best news here is staying away from Calpine (California pin heads). The geysers de unionized and has mainly been hiring children and anyone else who will DO ANYTHING for a temporary check. Real nasty little basta$%s.

    The BIGGEST joke is they say “we built the geysers” lol…it was a unionized work force3 BEFORE the whores took over.

    Buy power from an ethical company and people.

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 2

  2. Fiscal Conservative says:

    We need to hold public floggings for these supervisors.

    Thumb up 10 Thumb down 1

  3. James Bennett says:

    This is what fascism looks like.

    Thumb up 7 Thumb down 1

  4. Local Yokel says:

    Houston, Texas; Princeton, New Jersey; Canada; Britain; Valhalla, New York; and Chicago, Illinois? Really?????????

    Thumb up 7 Thumb down 0

  5. Phil Maher says:

    For the citizens and taxpayers of Sonoma County, it’s no longer even a question of what’s being done FOR us, it’s now merely a question of what’s being done TO us.

    Thumb up 9 Thumb down 0

  6. The Hammer says:

    Remember these supervisors at election time and how they could care less about your tax dollars. This board needs to be replace with people that respect the people to pay them.

    Thumb up 19 Thumb down 0

  7. The Hammer says:

    Fix the damn roads!

    Thumb up 19 Thumb down 0

  8. andrew simpson says:

    Outside of Capone’s Cook County, when has there been a county more fabulously corrupt than Sonoma?

    Watch the roll call of the suborned, the bought-and-paid for, the just-plain-scared when the city councils vote on Sonoma Clean Power (“SCP”)in the next month.

    SCP isn’t just a billion dollar Ponzi scheme. It’s blatantly so. With our public officials’ acquiescence. Watch.

    Will any city council member in any city in Sonoma County demand to know what if there are any benefits to rates, jobs or CO2 reduction? There are no such benefits.

    Will any city council member demand to understand the true risks of layering another billion dollar cash-sucking scheme on top of our unpaid for pensions and roads?

    Who’s going to stand up to the County’s owners?

    Who are the County’s owners?

    Certainly not the people footing the bills: not the voters, the taxpayers, the rate payers; not the kids whose educations are being shortchanged; not the grape growers whose roads-to-market are collapsing. Not the County workers whose salaries and benefits are being cut back. Not the County retirees who’ve been defrauded by the $45 million bad deal the Water Agency stuffed into their pension fund. Not the 490,000 real people who live in Sonoma County.

    Who are the County’s owners?

    Start at the top. With some absentee owners. We have two US Senators in California. One’s husband is the lead contractor on the new $800 million casino in Rohnert Park. The other Senator sponsored the enabling legislation launching the land deal behind the casino; that Senator’s son is a silent partner in the casino. The original land deal led to a $100 million trading profit for a group of folks associated with a “community bank” near courthouse square in Santa Rosa That bank is controlled by the same folks who contributed $20,000 to our Supervisors’ campaigns and just got the $500 million waste management contract; and by the folks who control the airport industrial park,the same folks who lease a massive facility to the Water Agenc.. The casino was organized by a lobbyist who paid a $500,000 fine for improper influence with pension funds; and who also controls the Press Democrat.

    This list scratches the surface of owns Sonoma County. It even includes union leadership (don’t blame the –rank- and- file). And more to the point, this is the list of folks who give marching orders to our County Supervisors; then in turn to our County Counsel, Auditor Controller, Water Agency senior managers, and the folks who oversee the County’s granting of waste collection contracts and the airport—the Department of Transportation and Public Works.

    In its advocacy for Sonoma Clean Power, the Water Agency has made only one truthful statement: that Sonoma Clean Power will ensure local control of $180 million of revenues now going to PG&E. That’s right. Those $180 million in revenues will migrate from a regulated utility to a utility “regulated” by the Supervisors; as will the billion or more in unnecessary capital spending initiated by Sonoma Clean Power; as will the cash siphoned off from Sonoma Clean Power in no-bid contracts to the County’s owners and their associates.

    What has this got to do with addressing our crumbling roads and still-escalating pension liabilities? Just this: under the bumbling corrupt stewardship of our Water Agency, Sonoma Clean Power may hasten our path to County bankruptcy. Which may translate to a re-do of our pension obligations.

    Will there be a single dissenting vote among the council members of Petaluma, Cotati, Rohnert Park, Santa Rosa, Windsor, Cloverdale? Is there anywhere in Sonoma County an elected official who has not been suborned, bought or scared off by our local owners?

    Thumb up 18 Thumb down 2

  9. Emerson Burkett says:

    And how is this going to be good for ratepayers? Someone produces electricity (like PG&E), I buy it from them and then sell it to you; I am not doing this out of the goodness of my heart, duh, it is to make a “profit”. If I buy the power directly from the producer, I should get a better price, period. Sonoma County has the worst roads in California, but, we can’t fix them because of no money. Huh? But we can afford to pursue schemes like this and the whole Fluoridation thing? Let us repair our infrastructure (creating jobs in the process), and get our Fiscal house in order before we pursue these “pie-in-the-sky” schemes.

    Thumb up 26 Thumb down 1

  10. Steveguy says:

    Excuse me, but aren’t the Healdsburg rates lower than ours ?

    Is it because it is a true public utility ?

    If the County wanted to drill with Calpine for CHEAPER green power, I am all for it.

    This scam stinks of Wall Street joining with the ‘greenies’ to fleece us all. They are trading in imaginary “credits” when 100% of my electricity is green already.

    Will the Press Democrat finally become a voice for all the people this time ?

    Thumb up 29 Thumb down 0

  11. Steveguy says:

    Can somebody besides little old me see the waste of this ? Let me do math again:

    The Geysers Complex puts out an average of 1,000 MW. Sonoma Greed Power says they need around 350 MW. Every electron coming to myself and most all of the County comes from there. I / we have close to 100% green electricity from there.

    Sonoma County is served by the largest geothermal source in the World. We even pump pee there to help it work better.

    Just because these ” energy traders” claim to make us ‘greener’, the fact remains that most EVERY electron delivered comes from 100% declared green power. They are considering Con-Edison ? Really ? PG&E isn’t perfect, but they are based HERE, not in New York, Texas, Illinois, etc.

    PG&E is not allowed to add the hydro-electric math to the County’s numbers or the States. That is very ‘green’ and renewable.

    I plan to make signs, many signs to OPT OUT of this bankster like scam.

    They are trading the power, to the trader’s profit !

    I want to post OPT OUT everywhere !

    This is serious folks.

    Thumb up 27 Thumb down 1

  12. GAJ says:

    Obviously the power comes from the nearest generating plant, which feeds local substations, in our case The Geysers, in other cases like San Diego the nearest Nuclear Plant.

    The “allocation” of coal/gas/geo/nuclear/wind/solar for the entire grid is “assumed” for every municipality even though the true source of power may be uber green already, (as in our case), or uber dirty.

    It’s expensive “feel good” stuff that I will be opting out of.

    I’ll eventually add solar to the house to keep me out of Tier 3.

    Thumb up 19 Thumb down 0

  13. Elephant says:

    No Calpine, no geyser power. I thought that was the whole idea here. What the …? Does this make sense to anybody?

    This debacle stinks more and more and gets no support from me. As marginal as PG&E is, I won’t take this alternative.

    Thumb up 38 Thumb down 4

  14. Grapevines says:

    Well the Ponzi Scheme that the BOS wants the county to get into finally has a head come to surface. One of the 4 energy companies that are supposedly competing for this is none other than one which is located where all the SMART car seats are being made. Chicago.

    What we have the the BOS taking their marching orders from the current administration and diverting Sonoma County Taxpayer funds to Illinois. Of course it’s not official yet, but when the announcement is made who got the job, look for the name of Constellation to be the one.

    Remember you heard it here first.

    Thumb up 30 Thumb down 5

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