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Sonoma Clean Power lays out green energy goal


Officials overseeing Sonoma County’s startup public power agency on Thursday unveiled terms of a proposed power supply contract they contend would make their venture immediately greener than PG&E.

The new information came as the agency enters a critical period leading up to key business decisions next month.

Two advisory committees that will provide input on that work were sworn in Tuesday and told to keep their schedules free.

“Congratulations, or some would say condolences, because you have some serious work ahead of you,” said county Supervisor Susan Gorin, board chairwoman of Sonoma Clean Power.

The setting of green power targets came in a preliminary sketch of the agency’s work on two contracts central to the venture’s launch. The aim is to begin serving the first wave of customers, mostly commercial accounts, by May.

power linesFor the initial power supply deal, they revealed terms dictating that 70 percent of the electricity purchased by the agency must come from carbon-free sources.

By comparison, PG&E’s carbon-free power amounts to 51 percent of its supply, according to the utility’s power content label, which is filed with the state and visible on customer bills.

Geof Syphers, interim CEO of Sonoma Clean Power, touted that difference, calling the agency’s emission-free focus “meaningfully larger” for the initial three-year contract period.

The public power venture has been billed as a more environmentally conscious, competitively priced alternative to PG&E, but it has yet to convince many skeptics, partly because to date they’ve been unable to make comparisons on which provider would have a cleaner overall supply.

Public power officials are keenly aware of the need to convince prospective customers and clearly are making a bid for the greener mantle.

At the outset, a little under half the carbon-free load — 33 percent — would come from renewable sources, including wind, geothermal, biomass and small hydroelectric projects. PG&E’s current renewable portfolio is 19 percent of its supply.

The remainder of the agency’s carbon-free supply would likely come from large hydroelectric projects, which don’t qualify as renewable under state rules, or wind. No nuclear power will be used. The remainder of the overall supply would likely come from natural gas, Syphers said.

The picture is muddied somewhat by the agency’s planned use of renewable energy credits, allowing it to package a premium payment for undelivered green power with contracted electricity from a conventional source. Of the agency’s 33 percent renewable portfolio, about half — 16 percent of the overall supply, to be exact — will be made up of renewable energy credits.

The cost-saving tool is seen as transitional by supporters, who ultimately want the agency to plow more money into actual green energy generation, especially on a local level. It could leave the agency open to attacks from its sharpest critics, who contend the credits are a form of greenwashing.

Other points of the proposed power supply deal include a right to purchase from other suppliers and an option to meet an increasing greater share of its power demand — up to 25 percent by the third year — through agency projects, efficiency programs and other means.

Four energy supply bidders, all of them national or multinational power companies, are competing for the initial power contract. It could be worth up $130 million annually by 2017, based on current enrollment from the county and five participating cities and assuming a 20 percent opt-out rate by customers who prefer to stay with PG&E.

A board decision on general terms and conditions of the deal — essentially everything but final price — is set for the next meeting, on Nov. 7. At that meeting the board could decide on a maximum average retail power rate and authorize staff to execute a deal with the winning bidder sometime thereafter.

The idea, Syphers said, is to come within a few percent of the rates offered by PG&E with the goal of being lower.

“It’s very important — and this has been impressed on me by everyone I have ever talked to with knowledge in the industry — that we do not commit to being lower than PG&E,” Syphers said. “That’s a problem for marketing. But the reality is, if the market moves and PG&E drops its rates through a surprise move and we’ve promised to customers that we are lower, we are suddenly out of business, even if we are a percent above.”

Later in the day, however, one of the agency’s consultants said that jockeying between rates offered by Marin County’s power venture and PG&E had not seemed to significantly affect customer participation, which has held around 80 percent, the consultant said.

The other main proposed contract detailed Thursday was a deal for data management, overseeing coordination with PG&E on billing and metering and customer service.

Board members said that deal, also set for a Nov. 7 decision, could prove just as crucial because it will establish who runs several “customer-facing” parts of the venture, including a call center.

On the upper end of its range, the proposed five-year deal could be worth $3 million annually by the third year, when the largest wave of residential customers is set to hit.

With six large power companies competing for the job, its unclear now whether such a center would be locally based. Several board members made it clear that would be their preference, seeking to deliver on their promise of local jobs and assure some level of expertise about the program.

Syphers said he was looking into the possibility of an existing local center taking on that role, and sharing some higher level customer service staff with the Marin program.

“We need to have some local people on the ends of those lines,” said Supervisor Shirlee Zane. “For the accountability factor and for the factor that we want to deliver what we said we were going to deliver, which is a local company.”

13 Responses to “Sonoma Clean Power lays out green energy goal”

  1. James Bennett says:

    Investigative journalism…


    The original purpose of the news paper was to keep government honest.


    OK, I’m done laughing now.

    How about the truth on our water?

    How about an unbiased forum for fluoride discussion?

    How come we never heard about Plan Bay Area ’till it was a done deal (or so they think)?

    How informing the readers about SB 1?

    How about the Trans Pacific Partnership?

    Heard about SUVs hurting a cyclist though.

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  2. James Bennett says:

    Oh, so you finallt printed my post.

    By sneaking it in days later, it creates the illusion that the truth isn’t well received.
    An instrument to marginalize.


    Thumb up 11 Thumb down 2

  3. Reality Check says:

    Since the Geysers Complex produces more electricity than is consumed by neighboring counties, it seems likely that all or nearly all electricity comes to Sonoma County from this close source.

    How about it PD? A little investigative journalism would go a long way to puncturing (or verifying) the claims of of “Sonoma Clean Power.”

    Thumb up 18 Thumb down 1

  4. Follower says:

    The race is ON!
    Who can screw us the most?
    Sonoma Clean Power, SMART Train or Obamacare?

    Never mind trying to wiggle & squirm you way out of this one… might as well just assume the position and take your screwing like a good little surf.

    They’re coming at you from all directions! County, State, Federal… take your pick?


    We Sonoma County residents will be getting the trifecta of screwing! We’ll be getting screwed by them all.

    And when you think you’ve had enough you can look to your Liberal neighbors, friends and relatives for someone to blame.

    DON’T FORGET WHO DID THIS TOO YOU because by the time you realize just how bad it is they will all have peeled off their “Obama2012” bumper stickers and be swearing “I didn’t vote for that/them”.

    Take note.

    We can use our vote for “revenge” too!

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  5. James Bennett says:

    Steveguy is that a fact?

    I guess nothing should surprise us.

    This is what a takeover looks like.

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  6. Papa E says:

    If this was not a huge fraud, then why would they need to lie and put out so much dis-information? Still waiting for my “Opt out” letter; will mail it back Registered Mail.

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  7. steve humphrey says:

    So, 33% of the agencys power will come from renewable resources, BUT 16% of that number will come from energy credits? So that makes the new Sonoma Green net out at 17% renewable energy resources, while the bad old PG&E comes in at 19%.
    You all must think we are really ignorant with all the distortions and fuzzy math. And this is just the start. Hmmmm.

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  8. James Bennett says:

    No, if ‘Sonoma Cleen Power’ disclosed the ultimate goal folks would be sharpening their pitch forks.

    Partnered with ICLEI, like PG&E they are complicit in your oppression.

    Control the food, water, currency, land and ENERGY…
    control the people.

    Allocating our consumptions is a big part of the highly controlled technocracy that is the ‘Smart Grid’.

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  9. Steveguy says:

    100% of my power comes from the Geysers Complex, so does yours. This is just a scheme.

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  10. Paul says:

    Until such time as all power sources are considered and weighed equally for both PGE and SP, this is just diversionary tactics to win by CHEATING. PGE obviously supplies us with clean power. Your electric power comes down from the Geysers. You don’t believe they “ship” that stuff all around the country or bring it in from back east just BECAUSE, do you?? Geez.
    The fact that all users are automatically switched unless they opt out proves to me that SP is weak and needs all the help it can get.
    I truly question the sanity of our supervisors in even considering this game, RIGGED as it clearly is. SUPERVISORS, SOUND OFF NOW!! (sound of crickets). See, us “little folk” are just supposed to line up and behave. THEY have all the answers. Don’t trouble yourself with the facts; WE KNOW.
    WHAT A LOAD. I spoke to one supervisor early on about this SP mess. She had JUST been elected. Her attitude was akin to “Oh, we’ll just have to see how it plays out.”, as if SHE had no say in the matter, that it was a done deal. And you know what? I BELIEVE IT IS A DONE DEAL.

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  11. Irene Tavenner says:

    All of these “carbon free energy supplies” are totally reliant on oil. The windmills are made from oil. The hydropower plants rely on oil to operate.

    There is no such thing as oil free. So why waste time, money and energy on a fraud?

    Its all about the politics. It is all designed to make us feel good about what is in reality a fraud.

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  12. farmer west says:

    When is the earliest I can opt out?

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  13. Reality Check says:

    Since PG&E isn’t allowed to count large hydro projects to meet its renewable energy obligations, why should Sonoma County Power? Nor, I believe, is PG&E allowed to purchase energy credits, which Sonoma County Power is doing.

    These numbers need to be parsed better than this article parses them. But, it’s hard to escape thinking that Sonoma Power isn’t setting high marks for truth in advertising.

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