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Sonoma Clean Power's delivery of electricity pushed back four months

Delivery of electricity to the first wave of customers for Sonoma County’s startup public power agency is not set to begin until May, four months after the originally proposed rollout, agency officials were told Thursday.

Postponing the start of service better incorporates what could be a three-month signoff process by state utilities regulators and a monthlong window PG&E needs to shift customers over to Sonoma Clean Power, said Geof Syphers, the agency’s interim chief executive.

He reviewed the revised timeline in a meeting of agency’s board of directors Thursday, describing it not as a setback but as a more realistic schedule that would result in a stronger venture once it begins serving homes and business next year.

“All of this is building toward a launch where there are no hiccups at the beginning,” Syphers said in an interview.

The 3-hour meeting focused on adoption of the agency’s first-year budget, approval of its implementation and staffing plans and signoff on a first-year contract with an outside accountant.

The public power venture, billed as a greener, competitively priced alternative to PG&E, originally aimed to start service Jan. 1.

Launching at the start of May still captures the peak summer season for electricity sales, Syphers said, giving the agency a boost toward achieving break-even cash flows, a benchmark it expects to hit in June.

It also will give the agency more time to develop its rate-setting process and strengthen its customer service and outreach efforts, Syphers said.

Those programs should enable a larger initial rollout next year, at more than 19,000 accounts, or roughly double the initial target for a first wave of customers. Most in the first wave will be commercial meters; the largest group of residential customers — about 115,000 meters — is set to be brought on in 2015 and 2016. At full buildout, the agency envisions serving up to 80 percent of PG&E’s customers in the county, about 220,000 meters.

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