City postpones Power Agency decision

Posted on June 18, 2013 by Sonoma Valley Sun

The Sonoma City Council postponed Monday a decision on joining the Sonoma Clean Power Authority, the county-wide provider that will begin competing with PG&E in 2014.

The initial motion to join the new agency failed to get the three required votes. Councilmembers Steve Barbose and Tom Rouse voted to join the consortium, which promises a cleaner energy mix than PG&E. David Cook opposed the move, and Laurie Gallian recused herself because her husband works for PG&E. Mayor Ken Brown, who said he has yet to firmly make up his mind on this issue, abstained.

Brown did vote for a subsequent motion that keeps the issue alive for additional study.

Brown said he has many unanswered questions about the SCP, which, if approved, would become the default power service for Sonoma. Residents would always have the choice to opt-out of the program in favor of PG&E.

Brown said he needs more information before making up his mind. He wants to review the results of two studies commissioned by city of Santa Rosa, which has also postponed its decision. Brown also wants to see if Sonoma County Conservation Action will endorse SCP.

“I intend to vote yes if I get my questions answered, or no if my questions are not answered,” said Brown. “Every city is struggling with this.”

Of the county’s nine cities, only Windsor has joined SCP, which will serve all unincorporated areas including El Verano, the Springs and Glen Ellen.

Cloverdale and Rohnert Park have decided not to participate, at least in year one. The others, like Sonoma, have pushed back any decision despite the SCP’s original June 30 deadline.

Councilmember Cook objected to the automatic opt-in element, and also questioned if consumers have been clearly informed on the issues.

“I am business friendly,” Cook said, “but in dealing with government when it has to do with private or commercial enterprise, in my experience, it will get messy.”

Rouse and Barbose agreed that it is important that Sonoma, which would have a seat on the governing board, take a leadership role in the emerging SPC.

Another vote could come as soon as the next council meeting on July 1.