Opinion: Yes to Sonoma Clean Power

Posted on June 15, 2013 by Sonoma Valley Sun

Will the City of Sonoma have a voice on the Sonoma Clean Power governing board and will the residents of the city have a choice about where their electricity dollars are spent? That’s what it boils down to as the June 30 deadline for making a decision approaches.

The unincorporated area of Sonoma County that surrounds Sonoma will have that voice and that choice in the program that is on track to begin service in January 2014. Do we want Sonoma to be an island of “no” in a sea of “yes”?

The City of Sonoma heard its first formal presentation on Sonoma Clean Power way back in July of 2011. Since that time, city council members and staff have been studying the opportunity and asking tough questions.

The questions raised last year by Sonoma city council members and others revolved around two key concerns: rates and risk.

In the case of rates, the obvious question is, will the rates be acceptable and competitive. That question has been answered with real-world information from the energy service providers that will work with Sonoma Clean Power and the answer is very good. The estimated rates are at or mostly below PG&E rates.

In the case of risk the main question is about risk to the Sonoma’s city funds and again the answer is good: there is none. Likewise, there is no risk to individual ratepayers. All the risk is borne by the financial institutions, energy service providers, and the Sonoma Clean Power Authority itself.

Sonoma Clean Power is an emerging local program, enabled by a 2002 state law that buys and generates electrical power for residents and businesses. It is funded by an existing revenue stream of about $180 million that currently leaves Sonoma County. No taxpayer dollars are involved. The purpose of Sonoma Clean Power is to begin to invest that money into local clean power and energy efficiency projects and programs thereby creating opportunities for residents and businesses, local economic benefits, and greenhouse gas emission reductions.

The Sonoma Clean Power vote is scheduled for Monday, June 17, 5 p.m. at the regular Sonoma City Council meeting. If you want the City of Sonoma to have a voice on the governing board of Sonoma Clean Power to help shape the program moving forward, and if you want to have a choice about how your electricity dollars are spent, let your city council representatives know how you feel. Show up at the meeting and say it in person.

By Woody Hastings, the Climate Renewable Energy Implementation Manager, Climate Protection Campaign