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Sonoma Clean Power projects rates that beat PG&E’s


Customers enrolled next year with Sonoma County’s startup public power agency could see some savings on their electricity compared to rates proposed by PG&E for 2014.

The lower cost for customers would amount to a 5 percent reduction on rates for power generation, resulting in a projected 2 to 3 percent savings on the overall electrical bill for businesses and homes, officials with Sonoma Clean Power said this week. The smaller total savings reflects delivery charges that would still be controlled by PG&E.

power linesFor an average residential customer during a summer month the net monthly savings would come to $2.38, reducing their bill to $105.32, including surcharges PG&E is allowed to impose on former customers.

The proposed retail rates were unveiled Thursday in a meeting of Sonoma Clean Power’s board of directors, where officials gave their preliminary support, voicing confidence the new venture will be competitive with PG&E.

They hedged, however, in declaring any clear retail advantage. PG&E will not have its final rates approved until late this month and Sonoma Clean Power isn’t set to approve its customer rates until early January.

“We’re going to have to be very careful in what we’re saying to the public and what our rates actually are compared to PG&E,” said county Supervisor Susan Gorin, chairwoman of Sonoma Clean Power.

The agency is scheduled to begin service in May to its first wave of 20,000 customers, including mostly commercial accounts. Most residential customers would be enrolled in 2015 and 2016. Those wishing to remain with PG&E can opt out.

The public venture is seeking to displace Pacific Gas and Electric Co. as the county’s main power provider by offering what supporters tout as a greener energy supply at a comparable price.

Two wholesale energy contracts reached last month should allow the agency to meet those goals, officials said Thursday. They also credited quick decisions by city officials earlier this year to join the effort, a fast-paced formation they said allowed the agency to take advantage of cheap energy prices. Fiscal watchdogs and others had criticized the city decisions as unnecessarily rushed.

“We wouldn’t be in this position if the cities had waited a long time because the wholesale market is at its low,” said Geof Syphers, interim CEO of Sonoma Clean Power.

The board’s first review of proposed rates covered three initial power supply plans and programs for customers.

The main package, dubbed “CleanStart” and projected to offer the 5 percent savings on power generation for initial customers, would be made up of sources that are 70 percent carbon-free, with a 33 percent mix coming from sources that qualify as renewable in California.

By comparison, PG&E’s carbon-free power amounts to 51 percent of its supply; about 19 percent of the utility’s current supply comes from state-qualifying renewable sources, including solar, wind, geothermal, biomass and small hydroelectric projects.

Officials said they hoped to extend the rate savings under the “CleanStart” program to customers that would join in 2015 and 2016. The venture aims to serve about 220,000 accounts, or about 80 percent of PG&E’s electricity customers in the county.

The other power plan introduced Thursday would allow customers to choose a more costly 100 percent renewable mix drawn from the secondary contract with CalPine Corp., the operator of the The Geysers geothermal field on the Sonoma-Lake county border.

That supply would come at a premium of 3.5 cents per kilowatt hour, or about 20 percent on the total electrical bill, depending on the customer, according to the agency.

For a typical residential customer, the so-called “EverGreen” offering would be about $17.50 per month more relative to the standard “CleanStart” package, officials said.

“It is not for everyone,” Syphers said. “It’s a significant premium.”

Several speakers voiced support for the concept, which is aimed at those willing to pay extra in order to have a greater impact on greenhouse gas reductions and renewable energy development. Marin County’s public power agency has a similar plan and PG&E is expected to introduce its own version next year.

But members of several environmental groups also called for a change in the premium program, saying it should directly support building new local sources, especially small-scale solar projects.

“I’m well aware that you need to exist as a strong economic entity. I don’t want to hurt that,” said Henry Denicola, a retired Sebastopol building contractor active with the advocacy group 350 Sonoma County. “But we have other things to accomplish as well.”

The call hinted at the near-constant tug-of-war in recent months between those pulling for a rollout with ambitious local energy goals and those urging a more conservative approach that limits customer costs.

Board members, conscious of their pledge to spur local projects and create jobs, appeared open to considering a special arrangement for dollars from EverGreen customers. They are allowed to join the first phase next year.

“I think it’s important that it’s very clear what we’re going to do with that money before we ask people to sign up,” said Sebastopol Councilman Michael Kyes. “If we can say we’re going to build solar or get more geothermal and that’s what you’re getting for your money, it will be a much easier sell for people.”

The board also reviewed a proposed program that would offer greater incentives for customers with solar projects that can feed surplus energy back to the grid.

Under Sonoma Clean Power, those customers would be credited for surplus power at a retail rate greater than the market-based calculation used by PG&E. Their credits would also accrue without being erased, and those with more than $100 accrued after a year can request a check.

“Nothing is lost; nothing is forfeited,” said Sonoma Clean Power consultant Kirby Dusel.

Supporters said they saw the program as another a big selling point for the agency. But board members said they would need details on what the subsidy meant for the venture’s bottom line before signing off next month.

“I’m looking for that information the next time we meet,” said Santa Rosa Vice Mayor Robin Swinth.

The proposed rates would cover a total of $51.2 million in expenses for the first year of operations, through mid-2015. Power purchases would make up $37.9 million of the budget, with most of the energy business going to the agency’s main supplier, a subsidiary of the Chicago energy giant Exelon Corp.

Agency officials propose to pay off $5 million in startup debt, erasing about half of the total accrued by next summer.

A reserve fund would start out at $3.5 million. How the agency uses that funding — and how it sets rates to provide for the revenue cushion — is a subject likely to dominate future meetings, officials acknowledged.

“There’s a lot of questions in there that do get to local build-out of solar, support and financing for (energy) efficiency programs, leveraging money to build our own systems some day,” Syphers told the board. “All of those questions are ultimately related to the cash that we can develop.”

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

20 Responses to “Sonoma Clean Power projects rates that beat PG&E’s”

  1. brown act jack says:



    “Those ominous gray bars represent all the rest of the power California consumed each month that didn’t come from solar, wind, biogas and biomass, geothermal, or small hydro tracked by CaISO. Some of the gray comes from California’s one remaining nuclear power plant. Most comes from the state’s fossil-fuel-fired thermal generating plants. A significant chunk comes from large hydroelectric plants, which — despite being technically renewable — CaISO does not track as a source of renewable energy. (We’ll take a closer look at California’s large hydro scene as we continue our look at the end of the year.)

    And a significant portion of those gray bars is energy imported into the state, which can range from hydro and wind to coal-fired power. So the little renewable energy sections at the bottom of each column in the above graph should actually be somewhat larger. Just how much larger would be hard to say without a lot more digging.

    Despite those caveats, one thing’s clear: even though we’ve been building renewable energy generating capacity like a house on fire in the last year, that capacity still makes up a small slice of the power we use 24/7/365. ”

    and somehow, you think that SCP can provide more green power than is produced in the state.

    Pay close attention to that statement that California imports power from other states.

    It is pleasant to think that it makes a difference, isn’t it

    But electricity is not separateable when in the lines.

    It s kind of like trying to say because your pour bottled water into the water system storage tanks you can deliver bottled water to the homes through the water pipes.

  2. GAJ says:

    A look at this map of all power plant locations will tell you exactly where our power comes from.

    Feel free to believe we get ours from as far away as possible rather than as close as possible.


  3. Papa ESoCo says:

    Hey brown act jack,
    I like your style.

  4. brown act jack says:

    And , of course, they never send electricity over 300 miles?

    Come on, the HVDC lines are good to 600 miles.

    and “line loss” is not the heat it is the loss of energy from the resistence of the line. the heat is the result of the line loss.

    Further, you don’t pay for the loss in the line, as you buy the delivered the goods not the shipped goods, and the shipper covers the loss caused by the line loss,

    Further it is only about 2.5& loss over 600 miles, so a 60 mile loss would be .25& of the energy

    I love it when these things happen,.

    SCP produces nothing, does it?

  5. brown act jack says:


    And you don’t know about this:
    “The Eastern Interconnection covers most of eastern North America, extending from the foot of the Rocky Mountains to the Atlantic seaboard, excluding most of Texas. The Eastern Interconnection is tied to the Western Interconnection via high voltage DC transmission facilities and also has ties to non-NERC systems in northern Canada. The reliability councils within the Eastern Interconnection are:
    Florida Reliability Coordinating Council (FRCC)
    Midwest Reliability Organization (MRO)
    Northeast Power Coordinating Council (NPCC)
    ReliabilityFirst Corporation (RFC)
    SERC Reliability Corporation (SERC)
    Southwest Power Pool, Inc. (SPP)
    The Western Interconnection covers most of western North America, from the Rocky Mountains to the Pacific coast. It is tied to the Eastern Interconnection at six points, and also has ties to non-NERC systems in northern Canada and Northwestern Mexico.”

    And , exactly, pray tell me, how do you keep the Geyser electricity separate from the PG&E electricity when they are on the same lines to the same houses.

    even an old 91 year old man knows that you can not do that!

    So, when you say that you deliver Geysers electicity are you telling the truth?

  6. Jackson says:

    Lying sacks of government.

  7. Greg Karraker says:

    BAJ —

    It’s stunning how little you know about electric transmission. If you have ever watched birds sit on a wire or stared into your toaster, you would know that electricity passing through a wire encounters resistance, and that some of that electricity is turned into heat. This is called line loss.

    And while it’s certainly possible to send electricity across country, the greater the distance, the greater the line loss. For this reason, it is economically unfeasible to send electricity more than 300 miles. This is why we get our energy from the nearest source… The Geysers.

  8. GAJ says:

    Maybe this will help you brownactjack:

    “Typical voltages for long distance transmission are in the range of 155,000 to 765,000 volts in order to reduce line losses. A typical maximum transmission distance is about 300 miles (483 km)…The place where the conversion from “transmission” to “distribution” occurs is in a power substation.”


  9. brown act jack says:

    How on earth do they determine that the electricity from Geysers comes into your home.
    It travels on PG&E lines along with all of the other electrons being transmitted over the line.
    And goes from one end of the nation to the other 60 times a second.
    amazing what people will believe

  10. Reality Check says:

    The unfairness of this is all too apparent.

    Sonoma Power is free to set its rates at whatever it wants, while PG&E must seek approval from the the PUC. And it’s rates must be uniform across a wide service area, averaging together high- and low-cost service areas.

  11. James Bennett says:

    This is soft pedal propaganda as to create an illusion of choice and good will and competition.

    Energy, water, food, currency are all instruments of our control, oppression and profit.

    The monopolization and control of energy and water are very central to their ‘plans’. The forthcoming Smart Grid is about a high level of control through Smart Meter devices. Part of the Climate Action Plans include mandatory Smart Meters and mandatory Smart Appliances with RFID chips that are about a high level of control including surveillance. They are made by GE, like PG&E they are partners in this technocratic corporate oppression. If you don’t have money to needlessly retrofit your appliances PG&E will give you a low interest loan.

    This, my friends is the part where we employ courage and discernment. The part where we come together in dissent.

    Might even be a good time to find some faith.

    On it’s face value, we’re in deep ****.

  12. taxpayer says:

    Bumbling idiots.

  13. Steveguy says:

    Oh my, they are charging more for Geysers Complex electrons. Healdsburg gets them for 20% less.

    To top it off, EVERY electron that I use comes from the Geysers Complex, every single one.

    You do realize that there is $100 Million solar project planned by the airport, they claim ‘largest of it’s type’– yes, because it is not economically feasible unless you have free money paid by ratepayers.

    That project needs to be stopped.

  14. Follower says:

    They told us the Bay Bridge would cost $1.3 billion.

    By how many Millions has the projected SMART budget already expanded?

    How’s that Obamacare working out for you?

    Anytime the Government does anything, it does it with fiscal inefficiency, corruption and often with incompetence.

    That’s just “how it is”.

    There are certain things that ONLY the Government can do, so we have come to accept that these things will be done the “good enough for Government” way.

    But when it comes to things that CAN be done w/o complete Government control it is reckless and insane to let them anywhere near it.

    We have no choice but to drive across a bridge that has had it’s shattered bolts wrapped in a multi-million dollar band-aid. We will do so pretending that the rest of those bolts somehow miraculously became stronger even though they were ALL manufactured the same way, in the same place, with the same materials and the same methods.

    We will continue to watch the debacle of SMART unfold before our eyes while we ponder which we can now afford for our families. . . “Gold”, “Platinum” or “Bronze”.

    And we will watch costs rise and rates rise as a brand new bouncing baby Bureaucracy grows into monster with an insatiable appetite for more “revenue”, bigger pensions, nicer offices and on & on.

    Our founders fought to form a Government with limited power and scope for a reason. And it worked right up until WE started expanding that power and scope.

    Now look at us.

  15. James Bennett says:

    Natural gas beats both for heating in a cold Winter.

  16. Reality Check says:

    One wonders how much the transfer of revenue from a taxpaying enterprise to one that pays no taxes will cost?

  17. David says:

    Well they did “create” some high paying, do nothing jobs.

  18. Papa ESoCo says:

    Oh, WOW, 2 to 3% cheaper than PG&E; I am so underwhelmed. Oh, I see they want to charge you more(20%), if you want some of that really, really green, clean, power from (Gasp)”the Geysers”. BWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!
    OH, this is soo funny, am busting a gut. Hey folks, Guess I was wrong in thinking our Power already came from the “Geysers”; due to it’s close proximity, etc., etc., etc. How can these folks say this stuff with a straight face? Just amazing!

  19. Grapevines says:

    Brett Wilkison states “Customers enrolled next year with Sonoma County’s startup public power agency could see some savings on their electricity compared to rates proposed by PG&E for 2014.”

    The operative word here is “COULD”

    Could is like saying you “MAY” see some savings. And there is only one thing definite we can say about MAY.

    It’s preceded by April and followed by June.

    It’s a ponzi scheme and there will never be any savings. It’s like Obama and Pelosi saying “If you like your health plan, you can keep your health plan.”

    Isn’t never going to happen and the PD following orders to say otherwise isn’t going to change it.

    Opt out soon.

  20. Elephant says:

    And the check is in the mail. And I will respect you in the morning. They’re just spouting rhetoric.

    SCP has no idea what they’re doing. So how could they possibly know what their rates will be? It’s all spin.