Board Takes Next Step on Community Energy Plan

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2012-04-10

PRESS RELEASE: April 10, 2012 - For Immediate Release

CONTACT: Amy Bolten - 707.547.1981, Cell Phone: 707.322.8156

Santa Rosa, CA – The Sonoma County Water Agency Board of Directors voted today to continue exploring a plan that would create an alternative public power option for Sonoma County residents. Specifically, the Board:

  • Authorized preparation of an Implementation Plan to provide more specific details about the program, such as(start-up costs, financing, level of participation, and so on);
  • Approved goals for the alternative power entity, Sonoma Clean Power;
  • Directed Water Agency staff to hold workshops for local city and town councils on possible implementation of Sonoma Clean Power;
  • Directed staff to pursue the creation of a Joint Powers Authority to govern the entity.
  • Directed staff to investigate possible sources of start-up funding for Sonoma Clean Power.

In addition, the board reviewed and accepted the results of a survey released in March which found that Sonoma County residents, by more than a 4-to-1 ratio, are supportive of an alternative energy choice. The survey also indicated that a majority of residents are willing to pay slightly higher rates for electricity from renewable sources such as solar and wind.

“To date, our research indicates that Sonoma Clean Power has the potential to provide clean, green energy at reasonable rates. The steps we’ve taken today will provide critical additional information to our Board,” said Water Agency Board Director Efren Carrillo, who serves on the Steering Committee investigating Community Choice Aggregation (CCA) in Sonoma County.

“Our survey shows that people are interested in getting more energy from wind, solar and other alternative sources. Sonoma Clean Power may be able to meet that demand, which is why it is important for us to move forward to explore the financial and environmental efficiency of such a program,” said Water Agency Board Chairwoman Shirlee Zane.

“The Healdsburg experience suggests a local energy provider can be a good deal for Sonoma County residents and businesses. Our Board has an obligation to see if other communities can benefit from a similar arrangement,” said Water Agency Board Director Mike McGuire, who also serves on the Board CCA ad hoc committee and whose district includes the City of Healdsburg.

“I’m eager to see the result of the studies we’ve authorized today. One of the most important roles of the Board is to ensure that programs are fiscally sound and financially sustainable before moving ahead. We want future generations to enjoy both a healthy environment and a health economy,” said Director David Rabbitt.

“Everyone I talk to wants to do something to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Sonoma Clean Power could provide a reasonable, sustainable option for local residents,” said Director Valerie Brown, who was unable to attend today’s meeting.

A key step of today’s Board action was approving the goals of Sonoma Clean Power, as recommended by a steering committee (see below). Having specific goals will allow for more accurate analysis of potential rates and greenhouse gas reductions and will form the basis for an Implementation Plan:

General Goals

  1. Reduce greenhouse gas emissions related to use of power in Sonoma County
  2. Be cost competitive
  3. Stimulate and sustain the local economy by developing local jobs in renewable energy
  4. Develop long-term rate stability and energy reliability for Sonoma County residents through local control

Specific Goals

  1. Provide at least 50% renewable energy portfolio from outset
  2. Develop at least 30 megawatts (MW) of local renewable energy by 2020
  3. Develop at least 120 MW of local renewable energy by 2030
  4. Evaluate energy storage adequate for optimizing intermittent source generation projects
  5. Provide cost-effective administration services
  6. Provide a feed-in tariff to customers who produce more renewable energy than they use
  7. Provide local energy efficiency programs

Finally, the Board approved further fact finding on businesses’ attitudes on the formation of an alternative electricity provider. A prior web-based survey with 900 respondents found that at least three-quarters of businesses believe it is at least moderately important that electricity rates remain stable, that greenhouse gas emissions are reduced and that their company have a choice in how their electricity is generated. More than two-thirds of respondents were also moderately supportive of local electricity generation and believe it’s at least moderately important to their company that their “electricity comes from clean sources like solar and wind as opposed to fuels like nuclear and natural gas.”

The results of the survey left some questions regarding the price point at which commercial customers are supportive of the program.  Today’s Board action authorizes further research on this question.

CCA Background

State law allows California cities, counties, or Joint Powers Authorities comprised of two or more cities and counties to implement a CCA program.

To date, Marin County has formed the only fully operational CCA in California, Marin Clean Energy.  The program is operated by the Marin Energy Authority, a joint powers authority comprised of the County of Marin and several cities).

Customers within a CCA service area have the choice to opt out of the CCA and continue to receive power from the utility (e.g., PG&E). Those who do not opt out will have their power supplied by the CCA. The utility continues to bill CCA customers for power transmission and other services (e.g., meter reading, billing, etc.). Only the electricity generation portion of electricity service is provided by the CCA entity.

Sonoma Clean Power Steering Committee

The committee currently consists of Efren Carrillo (Board), Ernesto Olivares (Mayor of Santa Rosa), Jake Ours (Santa Rosa City Council), Kathy Millison (City of Santa Rosa), Kevin Thompson (Town of Windsor), Suzanne Smith (Sonoma County Transit Authority/Regional Climate Protection Authority), Bill Keene (Open Space and Agricultural Preservation District), Veronica Ferguson (County Administrators Office), Donna Dunk (Sonoma County Auditor Controller/Tax Collector’s Office), Jose Obregon (Sonoma County General Services), Ann Hancock (Climate Protection Campaign), Dick Dowd (Private Developer), Iver Skavdal (Sonoma County Alliance), Jack Buckhorn (International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers), and Suzanne Doyle (Sierra Club).  Representatives from the Water Agency, County Counsel and other county and city employees also participate on the committee.

The Steering committee meets monthly and has been kept informed of all CCA-related developments.  The Steering Committee provided significant input into the power supply scenarios and drafted goals for Sonoma Clean Power.

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The Sonoma County Water Agency is working to secure our future by investing in our water resources, community and environment.  The Water Agency provides water supply, flood protection and sanitation services for portions of Sonoma and Marin counties. Visit us on the Web at www.sonomacountywater.org

 

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