SONOMA CLEAN POWER AUTHORITY AIMS AT 33% RENEWABLES
BY STAS MARGARONIS, RBTUS
Sonoma County, California established the Sonoma Clean Power Authority (SCPA), and solicited energy partners to move the county toward a 33% renewable energy goal.
Cordel Stillman, deputy chief engineer for the Sonoma County Water Agency (SCWA) is heading the SCPA program, established as a Community Choice Aggregation (CCA) program.
Stillman was asked three basic questions about the benefit of the new program to Sonoma County consumers and taxpayers:
RBTUS: What is the cost to Sonoma County customers of joining SCPA as compared to what they currently pay for their Pacific Gas and Electric service?
STILLMAN: “We are in the process of determining what rates for SCPA customers will be. A conservative estimate is that they will be slightly higher initially.”
RBTUS: Why should Sonoma County customers and cities join SCPA as opposed to staying with Pacific Gas and Electric?
STILLMAN: “There are multiple benefits that are described in the feasibility study. They include local control of rates, broader efficiency programs, incentives for local renewable generation, long term cost benefits, etc.”
RBTUS: How do SCPA power providers selling their power to the California grid benefit Sonoma County customers and taxpayers?
STILLMAN: “SCPA will contract for power to be delivered over the California grid. This is an established procurement and supply method that is used by the investor owned utilities as well as municipal utility districts. There is no specific benefit to customers from this method of delivery, it’s the way it works.”
Stillman notes that the program currently will only apply to unincorporated areas of the County and that “an effort is now underway to win the participation of all cities within the County by the end of June.”
Stillman says, “We will be requesting that cities decide whether their citizens will be given the choice of power companies by June 30. I will be giving presentations to cities in the month of May where the final details of the program will be laid out.”
Very simply, Stillman explains, SCPA will buy power from suppliers who generate more renewable energy than the current PG& E portfolio of 19% so as to sell that higher renewable mix into the California power grid. The participation of SCPA and its customers will make the renewable energy upgrade possible.
The goal of SCPA is 33% renewable energy for Sonoma County customers, but he notes that residents can opt for a higher utility bill that will ensure they are credited for selling 100% renewable energy into the California grid system.
Stillman said that Sonoma County will be looking to “purchase or finance our own power at a later date.”
One city is excluded from the program: “Healdsburg is already a Municipal Utility. They already buy their own energy and sell it to their citizens.”
A similar program is already under way in nearby Marin County, according to Jamie Tuckey, communications director for Marin Clean Energy who says: “As of July 2012 we serve approximately 75% of utility customers in Marin County and by this summer we will represent customers from the City of Richmond. We are a Community Choice Aggregation program that allows customers from a locality to choose power sources.”
Tuckey says, “Often the focus of CCA programs in other states is to focus on cost savings or competition. MCE’s primary goal is … environmental. Other CCAs with strong environmental goals include CleanPowerSF, which was recently organized to serve San Francisco customers.”
Tuckey says MCE has also been consulting with SCPA.
MCE tries to balance environmental goals with the costs of renewable energy: “We offer two levels of service: Light Green, which utilizes 50% renewable energy sources for a comparable price to PG&E, and Deep Green, which utilizes 100% renewable energy sources for an additional fee.”
In Marin County, the MCE program costs on average $5 per month to source power for 100% renewable providers. For more information please see: http://www.marinenergyauthority.com/
Currently Sonoma County derives all of its power from Pacific Gas and Electric, which Stillman says sources 19% of its power from renewable sources.
The SCPA seeks to accelerate the process of moving to a 33% goal and Stillman said the goal of going to a 100% renewable standard for all customers “is not an option at this time.”
On its website, SCPA projects: “At full enrollment, total potential peak demand for the load aggregation program is projected to be approximately 355 MW (megawatts-ed note), total potential annual energy requirements are projected to be approximately 2,000 GWh (gigawatts per hour-ed note), and total potential retail service accounts are projected to be approximately 176,000. This assumes that eventually all cities in Sonoma County (except Healdsburg) elect to participate.”