Can Sonoma Clean Power “turn the tide on the climate crisis?”

At its fifth anniversary, Sonoma Clean Power has much to celebrate: Millions of dollars in savings for customers, a notable drop in greenhouse gas emissions for the county and five profitable years.

Started by Sonoma County and city officials on May 1, 2014, as a way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and as a local competitor to Pacific Gas & Electric Co., Sonoma Clean Power has emerged as an influential player in California’s tumultuous electricity market.

In a state rocked by natural disasters, ambitious climate goals and PG&E’s bankruptcy, the local team that runs Sonoma Clean Power vows to restructure electricity, with all the opportunity and risk that entails.

Meanwhile, they’re selling electricity cheaper and cleaner than PG&E.

“Sonoma Clean Power is the biggest single step Sonoma County has ever taken for climate change,” said CEO Geof Syphers, who has headed the agency from the start.

Sonoma Clean Power is a new kind of energy agency run by locally elected officials who buy electricity and sell it to most of the people in Sonoma and Mendocino counties, with delivery and billing by PG&E.

The monthly bill that Sonoma Clean Power’s residential customers get from PG&E shows “Sonoma Clean Power electric generation charges” and, separately, “PG&E electric delivery charges.”

The state legislature approved this new kind of electricity agency called community choice in 2002 mainly so local governments could offer an alternative to investor-owned utilities.

It’s a revolutionary idea whose outcome is uncertain, a giant experiment that moves millions of dollars of responsibility from the hands of PG&E and its shareholders to the shoulders of Sonoma Clean Power and its member cities and county.

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Can Sonoma Clean Power “turn the tide on the climate crisis?”, By Mary Fricker, Sonoma West Times and News, August 3, 2019.

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