WatchSonoma Watch

Sonoma Clean Power’s delivery of electricity pushed back four months


Delivery of electricity to the first wave of customers for Sonoma County’s startup public power agency is not set to begin until May, four months after the originally proposed rollout, agency officials were told Thursday.

Postponing the start of service better incorporates what could be a three-month signoff process by state utilities regulators and a monthlong window PG&E needs to shift customers over to Sonoma Clean Power, said Geof Syphers, the agency’s interim chief executive.

powerplantHe reviewed the revised timeline in a meeting of agency’s board of directors Thursday, describing it not as a setback but as a more realistic schedule that would result in a stronger venture once it begins serving homes and business next year.

“All of this is building toward a launch where there are no hiccups at the beginning,” Syphers said in an interview.

The 3-hour meeting focused on adoption of the agency’s first-year budget, approval of its implementation and staffing plans and signoff on a first-year contract with an outside accountant.

The public power venture, billed as a greener, competitively priced alternative to PG&E, originally aimed to start service Jan. 1.

Launching at the start of May still captures the peak summer season for electricity sales, Syphers said, giving the agency a boost toward achieving break-even cash flows, a benchmark it expects to hit in June.

It also will give the agency more time to develop its rate-setting process and strengthen its customer service and outreach efforts, Syphers said.

Those programs should enable a larger initial rollout next year, at more than 19,000 accounts, or roughly double the initial target for a first wave of customers. Most in the first wave will be commercial meters; the largest group of residential customers — about 115,000 meters — is set to be brought on in 2015 and 2016. At full buildout, the agency envisions serving up to 80 percent of PG&E’s customers in the county, about 220,000 meters.

Work on securing a power supply won’t be stalled by the delayed launch, Syphers said. The agency is still looking to reach a contract and lock in a three-year electricity supply as soon as possible.

“We still need to do that,” Syphers told the board. “Power prices are generally trending upward.”

Agency directors did not object to the delay, but pressed for details on the factors fueling it and questioned how it might affect other looming steps and business.

Supervisor Mike McGuire, filling in as an alternate for an absent Supervisor Shirlee Zane, urged Syphers to press the state Public Utilities Commission for a quicker turnaround in its review and approval of the agency’s implementation plan. The process is set to get underway next week and could represent only the beginning of Sonoma Clean Power’s dealings with regulators.

“That tension is going to continue with the PUC,” McGuire said.

The agency has “a shot at shortening that window” for the utilities commission’s signoff, Syphers said.

“I don’t want to promise that,” he added.

Other directors pushed for earlier work on a plan for how the agency intends to develop local renewable power sources, one of its key goals along with job creation and greenhouse gas reduction. The blueprint isn’t due until next summer. Syphers said its delivery could be moved up by several months.

“I think we’re chomping at the bit to start having those discussions,” said Supervisor Susan Gorin, the board’s chairwoman.

The budget discussion focused on staffing costs and cash flow. The agency has projected $930,000 in salary and benefit costs for six to seven employees in the first fiscal year.

Syphers said the estimated staff costs — still preliminary because they are dependent on pay and benefit packages up for review next month — were “slightly generous” partly because the agency needs a “good number of relatively experienced people” to guide its rollout.

“I think it’s OK to have a couple junior people around, but it’s not going to make sense to have this be staffed entirely by junior folks,” he said.

The estimates were based on experience levels of 10 years or more in the field, Syphers said. Immediate hires for the agency this year are to include a communications manager, a general counsel, a programs manager and a pair of executive and administrative assistants.

The adopted budget shows the agency is set to hit positive cash flows near the end of the fiscal year, ending June 30. Borrowing and prior costs will result in a negative fund balance of $782,000, an amount Syphers said could be erased in about three months through revenue from customer power bills.

The directors also approved an $81,250 contract with San Rafael-based Maher Accountancy for services through June 30 of next year.

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

16 Responses to “Sonoma Clean Power’s delivery of electricity pushed back four months”

  1. Henry Bernard says:

    How can you tell they’re lying? Their lips are moving.

    1. There was no time for cities to do cost analysis or feasibility studies due to the pressing need for transmittal of participant information that potential power suppliers needed to put their bids together in order to meet the Jan. 1st deadline. We’re now glibly informed that a four month delay is a good thing, an opportunity for management improvement.

    2. REC’s guarantee clean power.
    Ridiculous, only the most ignorant manager would pay a premium for a REC and waste it on ‘clean’ power. REC’s exist only as ‘brillo pads” with which to burnish ‘dirty power’ clean. REC’s guarantee dirty power, otherwise they wouldn’t be necessary.

    3. SCP is an power agency.
    No, SCP is an energy trading company, a fact Mr. Syphers acknowledged in a personal conversation. Only problem is that the staff being assembled has absolutely no experience in trading energy. The boys at JP Morgan’s energy desk are salivating.

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  2. observer says:

    The ideal challenge is to use Sonoma County as a science experiment in lowering CO2 emissions that we create ourselves.

    The nominal justification for Sonoma Clean Power from the outset was the Climate Protection Campaigns plan–and consensual formal support by the County and all sisters cities–to lower CO2 emissions to 25% below 1990 levels. 1990 CO2 was 3.6 million metric tons. 25% below that is 2.7 metric tons annual emissions CO2. Today’s CO2 levels are 4.1 million tons. So the goal is to go from 4.1 million tons to 2.7 million tons CO2 emitted WITHIN THE COUNTY.

    Sonoma Clean Power has nothing-zero-underscrore nothing to do with that goal. It has no effect on local CO2 and none on employment.

    The conversation on REC’s etc is a distraction by the puppet masters who use the Press Democrat to fool all of us into thinking Sonoma Clean Power has any bearing on clean energy.

    Sonoma Clean Power is a finance company operation, an affiliate of local financing companies. Its sole mission to suck cash from rate payers who will pay a premium relative to PG&E and a 15% to 20% premium relative to Healdsburg/NCPA.

    These premiums will fund high return low risk investments by friends of these local financing companies, who in turn will replenish the coffers and career hopes of their obliging puppets-as-Supervisors.

    Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  3. Follower says:

    It never ceases to amaze me how people so easily ignore the rock solid track record of incompetence, corruption and malfeasance demonstrated by the entities we entrust implement these great ideas.

    From Obamacare, the Bay Bridge to our own little local energy catholicon.
    We enact these self perpetuating bureaucratic fiscal black holes where the suspension of a budget “increase” is called “a cut”, where their Union bosses bankroll their employer’s campaigns to remain their employers and the rest of us pay, pay pay.

    Even staunch libs like Bono are finally beginning to realize the folly of the “Government will save us” mentality.

    Government must exist to provide us with a healthy infrastructure, security and that’s about it!
    Everything else is best left to a thriving, minimally regulated free market.

    Thumb up 28 Thumb down 5

  4. Bill me says:

    Who is buying this? $930k for 6 employees? “Everyone is chomping at the bit” to begin looking at local power projects and local hiring? No problem spending more than they should on their own overhead, but big problem moving forward with promised local jobs. Hmmm. Things that make you go hmmm. A lot of those with this boondoggle. Opt out. ASAP.

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  5. The Hammer says:

    The lies begin!

    Thumb up 23 Thumb down 1

  6. Steve Humphrey says:

    I find it puzzling that the PUC must grant permission to Sonoma Clean Energy.
    Especially since if you, as a ratepayer, have any complaint against Sonoma Clean Power you will not have any recourse through the PUC. They do not handle any complaints regarding rates, taxes or the like for customers of “publicly owned or municipal utilities”.
    So when you sign up for this scam, you are forfeiting any future recourse through the Public Utilities Commission.
    The good news is that Steveguy is right. Those who share some of the concerns on this board must write the PUC, and urge all other likeminded citizens to do the same.

    Thumb up 21 Thumb down 2

  7. Elephant says:

    Sonoma not-so-Clean Power adds another punch line to the joke that it is. And PG&E remains silent on it all. My guess on that is that they will be the ones supplying them the power anyway and they all know it.

    And yes Steve. ALL of us are on the hook for this debacle. The $10 million (or whatever they total) start-up loans will have to be guaranteed by the Sonoma County General Fund. Actually, very few details about those loans have been divulged.

    I am all for the idea of a greener and cleaner and cheaper alternative to PG&E. But SCP is far far away from that. Anyone not concerned about this mess is not paying attention.

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  8. Steveguy says:

    Another thought- If Santa Rosa and customers spent $400 million plus on piping the feces-free water to ‘replenish the Geysers’ exactly who gets that credit for that water and electricity procured by that project ?

    Did they fail to negotiate in the public’s interest like this scheme ?

    Where does their plush retirement fund come from ? The general fund ?

    I must be ignorant with all of these questions.

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  9. Steveguy says:

    Here is a thought- If someone opts out are they also on the hook for a failure through the tax system ? Yes, to them.

    If you opt out, shouldn’t you be protected by the whole ” taxation without representation” aspect of our ‘free’ country ? No to them.

    Who pays for all this ? Both Sonoma Greed Power and PG&E ? Nope, probably the taxpayers.

    oh my

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  10. Steveguy says:

    Wait a minute ! They were all in a rush to get Santa Rosa and other cities, and once they bought them they say ” delay now”. In one month ! They had to have known.

    I will certainly write to the PUC about my thoughts of no taxpayer protection. Real protection. It may do no good, but someone has to speak up.

    Thank you Andrew for your info.

    Steve Mosher

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  11. Larry Watkins says:

    Another boondoggle, like obamercare and smart that is unaffordable, unrealistic, and not manageable.

    Government getting out in the weeds where it doesn’t belong doing something it unprepared to handle.

    How many more delays are in the pipeline before this wonderful, cheap power source comes into being? Looks a lot like smart, chapter 2.

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  12. Greg Karraker says:

    I was at the meeting last night in Cotati where Geof Syphers, Mark Landman and Susan Gorin tried to put a green face on Sonoma Ponzi Power. I asked Syphers three times how far the purchased “green” electrons would travel from the source and how much energy would be lost in long-distance transmission. He artfully dodged the first two questions.

    Everyone should watch what he says closely, because he’s very skilled at generalizations and vague statements. Also, many of his answers describe what the future could be if this scheme succeeds, instead of the reality of what it will actually be at launch.

    Finally, I asked flat out: “Can you assure us that the first power delivered to 20,000 customers in May 2014 will come from a local source less than 100 miles away?” His answer? “Of course not.” I then asked if SCP planned to make that fact clear to its customers, and his answer was. “Why would we?

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  13. Steve Humphrey says:

    “Work on securing a power supply won’t be stalled by the delayed launch, Syphers said. The agency is still looking to reach a contract and lock in a three-year electricity supply as soon as possible.”

    I suppose that the contract will be for “clean” or “green” energy only?
    Fact is, energy contracts are simply a commitment to purchase a given amount over time from the Electrical grid… electricity generated from multiple sources… hydro, coal, gas, thermo, nuclear, wind (minor) and solar (even less).

    But the powers that be did a great mix on the Kool Aid, clean and green, this time. Drink up and keep believing you all are doing the right thing to save the planet.

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  14. Emerson Burkett says:

    Dear Sonoma County “Greed” Power,
    Does this mean I will have to wait another 4 months to get my “Opt Out” letter? I was really hoping to mail it in much, much sooner.
    Observer: thanks for the info. “The PUC knows that Sonoma Clean Power has not undertaken a legitimate effort to provide low cost power to Sonoma County…”. I notice they did look at almost a million dollars in staff costs for “six or seven employees”, and were quick to justify it. So, where is the deal for all of us “little people”? How come the Water agency has refused to even consider Healdsburg? Is this just more “good old Crony government”?
    Please, please, please can I just “Opt Out” NOW?

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  15. observer says:

    The PUC is playing a disquieting role in Sonoma Clean Power

    On 7/22/2013 andrew simpson writes (using the Commissioner’s Online Email Form):
    Dear Commissioner Peevey May I ask you about some PUC public statements about Sonoma Clean Power? This is a June 10, 2013 Santa Rosa Press Democrat guest editorial by the PUC’s DRPA head: “GUEST OPINION: Why Sonoma Clean Power ratepayers need not worry”. The story included this statement: “As a Sonoma County resident myself, I plan to choose Sonoma Clean Power. It provides a way to plot a greener energy future for Sonoma County, and it gives me a way to help keep electricity rates low in the long run for my family.”. http://www.pressdemocrat.com/article/20130610/OPINION/130619969/1307/opinion05?p=1&tc=pg To put this in context I note this statement on DRPA’s home page: “Our statutory mission is to obtain the lowest possible rate for service consistent with reliable and safe service levels. In fulfilling this goal, DRA also advocates for customer and environmental protections”. I would greatly appreciate your advice on these five questions: 1) Does the PUC have jurisdiction over Sonoma Clean Power? 2) Is it consistent with PUC policy to have Department Heads publicly advocate ANY utility project of any kind prior to local decision votes and PUC review? 3) Did the PUC research Sonoma Clean Power’s benefits and costs to the rate payers and citizens? 4) Did the PUC determine that Sonoma Clean Power would “obtain the lowest possible rate” for the electricity rate payers of Sonoma County? 5) Is that research available to the public? Kind regards Andrew Simpson

    I previously posed this issue to the head of the Division of Rate Payer Advocacy at the PUC and got no reply.
    Here’s my surmise.
    The Water Agency publicly stated that Healdsburg/NCPA’s electricity rates are 15% to 20% lower than PG&E’s. The PUC already knows this fact.
    The PUC knows that the Water Agency’s feasibility study for Sonoma Clean Power excluded the low cost provider in Sonoma County, Healdsburg/NCPA: http://www.scwa.ca.gov/files/docs/carbon-free-water/cca/CCA%20Feasibility%20Report%20101211.pdf
    This study goes out of its way to consider the prospect of a joint venture with the Marin effort, whose consultant is also the consultant for Sonoma Clean Power—but makes no mention of Healdsburg/NCPA.
    The PUC knows that the Water Agency deliberately excluded Healdsburg/NCPA from the recent list of invitees to become primary outside partner to Sonoma Clean Power.

    The PUC knows that Sonoma Clean Power has not undertaken a legitimate effort to provide low cost power to Sonoma County and that Sonoma Clean Power has zero connection to the public interest.
    The PUC, in the person of its head of Division of Rate Payer Advocacy, is party to fraud.

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  16. Reality Check says:

    Imagine that, Zane wants the PUC to provide a quicker turnaround of county plans. I can think of a few local business applicants who wished the same from the county. No luck.

    Thumb up 30 Thumb down 1

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