Willits residents can expect changes to their electric bills starting in June.
Sonoma Clean Power, which became Mendocino County’s main electric supplier last fall, is bringing its services to Willits. Starting on the city’s June meter read date, all homes and businesses will automatically be enrolled in the power agency’s default service, running on 36 percent renewable power compared to PG&E’s 30, according to Erica Torgerson, Sonoma Clean Power’s director of customer service.
Sonoma Clean Power, a public but privately-funded agency serving Sonoma County since 2014, boasts cleaner power and lower prices than PG&E, acting as its “competitive partner,” according to Kate Kelly, director of public affairs and marketing. The two compete on the delivery side, but not on the generation side (collecting the energy from the source), and they share customers.
Customers have the option to opt out of the new service for free within the first 60 days if they’re concerned about reliability, which some Sonoma County customers in 2014 cited as their reason for declining the service, CEO Geof Syphers told the Santa Rosa Press Democrat. He said that reliability would remain the same because those aspects did not change hands. The agency’s current participation rate (customers that have not opted out) in Sonoma County is 88 percent, Torgerson said in an email. Customers can also upgrade to the ultimate eco-friendly service that uses 100 percent renewable power and costs about 1 percent or $13 more per month.
The Santa Rosa newspaper reported in May 2015 that Sonoma Clean Power customers were saving between 6 and 9 percent on their electricity bills compared to PG&E’s rates, based on a monthly pricing report published by PG&E.
Torgerson told the Willits City Council on Wednesday that Sonoma Clean Power’s total electric bill rates are about 1 percent lower than PG&E across the board, based on March 2015 estimates. She also said that customers would be given a comparison of rates between Sonoma Clean Power and PG&E based on average usage, but not on individual bills. Further rate comparisons can be found on the agency’s website.
Customers will still receive only one electric bill, but it will look a little different. For one, a “generation credit” will show what PG&E would have charged for electric generation, which can be used to calculate the cost difference with Sonoma Clean Power. PG&E will stop charging for collecting the energy (now a separate charge named “Sonoma Clean Power generation charge”), and will continue to charge only the delivery fee (along with other regular fees). And a “vintage power charge indifference adjustment,” a fee required by PG&E, makes sure that customers who switch to Sonoma Clean Power pay for the above-market cost of energy that PG&E bought on their behalf before changing service.
Torgerson said on Wednesday that the vintage charge is hard to explain, because it is calculated in a “black box,” and that it could take up to 30 years to go away.
The new service provides incentives for solar customers, offering them the chance to earn credits on their electricity bills by contributing to the grid. Customers can save by installing solar panels or wind turbines.
The agency will mail its first round of notices in April. Representatives will hold public meetings throughout the summer to explain the coming changes, the first on March 16 at the Willits Harrah Senior Center.
Sonoma Clean Power to Become Willits’ Default Provider, by Ashley Tressel, Willits News, March 9, 2017.