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Sonoma City Council hears final clean power pitch

Sonoma County officials made their final clean power pitch Monday night to a mostly receptive audience in Sonoma.

With little comment, the Sonoma City Council scheduled a vote in two weeks on a resolution on whether to support the county's vision of supplanting PG&E as the county's chief supplier of electricity and provide a greener energy portfolio.

Sonoma is on track to meet the county's deadline of June 30 for cities to opt-in if they want to participate in the rollout of the power system on Jan. 1.

Other cities, including Petaluma, have delayed such consideration amid concerns about how the new power program is supposed to work. So far, only Windsor has signed on.

Sonoma was the last city to be lobbied.

Supervisor Susan Gorin told the City Council that the county's power program would provide the city with choice and competition.

She recounted working for telephone companies on the East Coast and “the amount of innovation” that occurred after that industry was deregulated.

Mayor Ken Brown shared his own experience growing up in New York, where he said smoke from power plants operated by Con-Edison contributed to his asthma.

With regard to Sonoma County's energy plan, Brown said that he was “willing to continue to the dialogue” on June 17.

Fifteen people spoke Monday on the plan, with most expressing support for it.

The county touts its energy plan as a greener option that will draw more heavily from solar, wind, geothermal, biomass and small hydroelectric projects than what PG&E currently offers.

The county intends to start with power that is 33 percent from renewable sources, a greater proportion than PG&E's 20 percent.

County officials estimate that in 2014, Sonoma Clean Power rates for residential customers would be 1.8 percent lower to 1 percent higher than PG&E's, and for commercial customers 3 percent lower to 0.5 percent higher.

Council member Tom Rouse expressed concerns about the county putting up 25 percent of a $10 million loan from First Community Bank to fund start-up costs for the power program.

“I think choice is great, competition is wonderful, but we're putting $2.5 million of our constituent's money countywide at risk potentially,” Rouse said.

There also was some discussion about the voting power cities and the county would have in the joint powers agreement that will govern operations of the county program. Smaller cities have expressed concerns about that structure, saying it potentially gives too much power to larger jurisdictions.

Council member Laurie Gallian recused herself from the discussion because her husband works for PG&E.

You can reach Staff Writer Derek Moore at 521-5336 or derek.moore@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @deadlinederek.

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