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Photos Sonoma Clean Power

By Mary Fricker Special to Sonoma West Publishers 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

feeling that deregulation déjà vu? The California legislature decided in 2002 that communities could form their own community choice agencies to buy and sell electricity in competition with investor-owned utilities. It’s clear lawmakers did not think that through. The state had just endured the chaos of the 1998-2001 energy crisis, and officials wanted to give communities more control over their electricity supply without having to acquire wires and do the billing. Those tasks would stay with the area’s utility. Many hoped this new competition would reduce prices, increase clean energy and

protect communities from the market and regulatory failures of the energy crisis. It now appears lawmakers did not consider how to manage the grid if many communities fled utilities and embraced community choice, an explosion that has been underway in earnest since 2014. Dramatic disputes have broken out between the old grid – that is, the state’s three giant utilities and their regulator, the politically appointed California Public Utilities Commission – and the new grid, with its 19 community choice agencies and their

See Deregulation, Page 5

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,

See So Far, So Good, Page 2

Sonoma clean power set goals for itself, but have they made the grade? see page 3

PG&E is still the county’s energy giant Even though 87 percent of eligible electricity users in Sonoma and Mendocino counties have decided to let Sonoma Clean Power buy their power, Pacific Gas & Electric Co. is still the energy giant in the region. As it struggles through its second bankruptcy in 20 years, and a bitter backlash against corporate PG&E for failure to maintain the wires that caused recent firestorm deaths and damage, its services are still vital to the area’s economy and well being. PG&E delivers the power that Sonoma Clean Power buys, and it maintains the lines.

INSIDE THE ISSUE

It sends out the bills. It buys and delivers gas. It’s estimated to spend more than $100 million a year buying energy from The Geysers geothermal fields in and around northeast Sonoma County. It stands in the wings waiting to rush out electricity to its own solar and wind customers when Mother Nature drops the ball. And it must welcome any Sonoma Clean Power customers who don’t pay their bills or want to return to PG&E. To do that work, it employs about 770 people in Sonoma County and 136 in Mendocino County, and about 400 PG&E

employees live in Sonoma County but work elsewhere, according to a company spokesperson. Calilfornia’s largest utility, PG&E’s service territory stretches from Santa Barbara County north through Humboldt County and from the ocean almost to Nevada. Though Sonoma Clean Power and PG&E disagree on some issues, Sonoma Clean Power CEO Geof Syphers has said he sees important opportunities for his agency and PG&E to be partners. As Sonoma Clean Power expanded into

SCP after five yearS ..........................................Page SyPherS SearCheS for anSwerS..............Page SCP getS graded ......................................................Page PromiSeS with loCal ProjeCtS................Page ClumSy deregulation........................................Page inSide the SCP offiCe ........................................Page

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Mendocino County two years ago, officials said they heard a strong message from rural residents, who appreciate PG&E crews, especially during winter storms. In the North Bay, PG&E is led by senior manager Joe Horak, a Santa Rosa resident who grew up in Kansas and has lived in Sonoma County more than 20 years. Horak has worked for PG&E more than 12 years, most recently in the business energy solutions division, and before PG&E he

See PG&E, Page 8

the PeoPle of the Power Pit ....................Page underStanding CCaS ..........................................Page looking at County emiSSionS....................Page hiStory of loCal deregulation ............Page Pg&e’S imPortant role ....................................Page ambitiouS buying PlanS ..................................Page

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A special publication of The Healdsburg Tribune, The Cloverdale Reveille, The Windsor Times and Sonoma West Times & News...........................august 1, 2019


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Page 2 scp edition August 1, 2019

so far, so good: Sonoma clean power after five years CONT. FROM PAGE 1

$180 million in 2019. Sonoma Clean Power’s with delivery and billing by income comes from ratepayers, PG&E. not taxpayers. It has no debt. The monthly bill that Reserves set aside to cover Sonoma Clean Power’s operations are estimated at $63 residential customers get from million and climbing. Moody’s PG&E shows “Sonoma Clean Investor Service, which Power electric generation analyzes financial strength, charges” and, separately, recommends operating “PG&E electric delivery reserves equal to six months of charges.” expenses, or roughly $83 The state legislature million, because power is a approved this new kind of “potentially highly volatile electricity agency called business” with sometimes community choice in 2002 “dramatic” shifts in the need mainly so local governments for working capital. could offer an alternative to Growing reserves is a investor-owned utilities. controversial decision with It’s a revolutionary idea people who want Sonoma Clean whose outcome is uncertain, a Power to finance green energy giant experiment that moves projects or reduce rates millions of dollars of further, but one applauded by responsibility from the hands of fiscal conservatives. Photo courtesy Sonoma Clean Power and Center for Climate Protection PG&E and its shareholders to “If this were a business, we’d HAPPy bIRTHDAy — Supporters gather outside the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors chambers to celebrate the birth of Sonoma the shoulders of Sonoma Clean be jumping for joy. To put that Clean Power five years ago. The banner tracks the 13-year effort the Center for Climate Protection in Santa Rosa drove to reach the May kind of money in reserves is Power and its member cities 1, 2014, starting day. and county. outstanding,” said Paul Traditionally, the people Brophy, founder of the Santa customers more than $70 percent agriculture and a little existing model,” Syphers said. the state, PG&E filed who tangled with the Rosa-based geothermal million in its first five years, street lighting. “I think the future for PG&E is bankruptcy and the market notoriously volatile and research firm EGS Inc. and a and the agency has donated to (Healdsburg and Ukiah do collapsed. Ratepayers today are in renting their wires.” unpredictable energy markets Sonoma Clean Power adviser. many community causes, Greener and cheaper than not participate because they still paying for that expensive have been sophisticated But the good news is only including $1 million to victims have their own municipal PG&E, for now failure, almost $2.50 a month utilities with monopoly power, part of the story. Considerable Today Sonoma Clean Power utility. A municipal utility buys of the 2017 fires. for the typical residential bill Wall Street-savvy traders and uncertainty lies ahead. Sonoma Clean Power got and sells power like Sonoma has about 224,000 customer through the end of 2020. shareholders to help take the One problem is Sonoma started when county officials accounts, or about 87 percent of Clean Power, and it also Critics worry a similar losses. Clean Power’s uncertain decided to start a community delivers the power and sends eligible electricity users in Now in Sonoma County that experience could upend the relationship with PG&E and the choice agency to help them and California Public Utilities out the bills like PG&E.) Sonoma and Mendocino community choice industry, job falls to Syphers and his their cities meet their Most of Sonoma Clean counties let Sonoma Clean crew that are sitting on the fifth and the state’s climate goals, if Commission, which regulates greenhouse goals. Those goals Power’s customers buy its Power buy their electricity the new local agencies can’t floor of a building overlooking the state’s three major utilities. were to reduce annual standard CleanStart product, instead of PG&E. Here’s how meet the challenges of Old Courthouse Square in Both are reluctant to hand over greenhouse gas emissions to 25 responsibility for the reliability which currently is $6.94 Sonoma Clean Power’s operating in a deregulated Santa Rosa. cheaper for an average monthly percent below 1990 greenhouse customer profile breaks down: electricity market. The last time California of the grid to newcomers. gas levels by 2015. bill than PG&E, while 1,851 47 percent residential, 30 But Syphers sees a different regulators experimented with Further, Sonoma Clean That meant limiting annual customers pay about $13 a percent small/medium outcome this time. deregulating their electricity Power’s success has rested month more than CleanStart to emissions to 2.6 million tons, “We’re proving we can meet commercial, 20 percent large markets, 1998-2001, electricity mainly on selling electricity including limiting electricity to that is greener and cheaper buy EverGreen, which is 100 state goals much faster than the commercial/industrial, 3 prices soared, blackouts roiled 459,060 tons, according to the percent green and local. than PG&E. But with wildly Center for Climate Protection When customers buy clean changing market and political in Santa Rosa that tracks power, they aren’t paying to conditions, those favorable Sonoma County’s annual receive clean energy, because circumstances are not greenhouse gas emissions. electricity flows randomly on guaranteed. That’s a problem, In 2013, the year before the grid. Instead, they’re paying because customers that become Sonoma Clean Power started clean power plants – instead of disenchanted with Sonoma fossil fuel plants – to run. That’s delivering power to customers, Clean Power can simply return annual electricity emissions what helps reduce greenhouse to PG&E. were 683,000 tons. By 2016 they gas emissions. “The real risk to CCAs is had fallen to 297,000 tons, with Sonoma Clean Power getting out of whack with the Center for Climate guarantees its CleanStart PG&E,” said founding general customers that 49 percent of the Protection giving much of the counsel Steve Shupe in a credit to Sonoma Clean Power. money they spend for presentation on risk. Mission more than electricity buys state-approved For example, in June some accomplished. renewables. That’s up from 33 cities in Ventura County began Sonoma Clean Power ended percent when it started five moving their largest accounts its fifth fiscal year June 30 with from their community choice Photo courtesy Sonoma Clean Power years ago. PG&E is at 39 percent, up from 22 percent five a string of profits that totaled agency back to the area’s PlUGGING IN — Officials “flip the switch” on a power board built by Sonoma Clean Power CEO Geof $90 million over the five years – utility, Southern California years ago. Syphers in his home shop to celebrate opening day May 1, 2014, when Sonoma Clean Power started which the agency calls “change Edison, when several Syphers said his agency has providing service to 22,000 business accounts in its five founding cities and the unincorporated areas in net position”— and ended also boosted the local economy unexpected factors drove the of Sonoma County. Back row, left to right: Sen. Mike McGuire, Windsor Mayor Bruce Okrepkie, in many ways. For example, he with an estimated $13 million in agency’s rates for large users Sonoma Clean Power CEO Geof Syphers, Cotati City Councilmember Mark Landman, Sebastopol City 2019. Revenue that was $96.6 said Sonoma Clean Power’s well above Edison, according to Councilmember Michael Kyes. Front row: Santa Rosa City Councilmembers Julie Combs and Gary million in 2015 is expected to be the Ventura County Star. lower rates have saved its Wysocky, Sonoma County Supervisor Susan Gorin, Sonoma City Councilmember Steve Barbose.

CEO GEOF syphers searches for answers

Photo Loren Hansen

GEoF SyPhErS CEo, Sonoma ClEan PowEr

As the head of Sonoma Clean Power, Geof Syphers is one of the most influential CEOs in Sonoma County. “This position is exactly what I’ve been preparing for since I was a child,” he told the interviewing panel when he applied in 2013 to be Sonoma Clean Power’s chief executive officer. At first Syphers was cautious. “I’m a scientist. I’m a skeptic of everything. I don’t trust what I know,” Syphers said. But he came around. “When you’re trying to be effective and honest, you are willing to change when new ideas come along.” Syphers, 48, was raised in Pleasanton in a family committed to self-reliance. “I grew up with a grandfather who had solar hot water in 1971, who built his house with his own hands in Apple Valley almost a mile from the nearest home. “My mother knows how to cook and fix

anything. We had to know how to mend clothes and make five meals before we left home,” Syphers recalled during an interview in his fifth floor office at 50 Santa Rosa Avenue, overlooking Santa Rosa’s Courthouse Square. He came to Sonoma County in 1988 to study applied physics at Sonoma State University, where he focused on the theory and fabrication of photovoltaic and superconductor materials. He followed up at the University of Massachusetts at Lowell, getting a master’s of science in energy engineering with an emphasis on community solar energy systems and on designing ratebased incentive programs that utilities could use to encourage energy efficiency. He is a licensed mechanical engineer. In 1998 he and his wife joined three other couples as founders of a co-housing community in Cotati, acquiring and developing the land and adding 26 families. In

the co-housing community, Syphers and his wife live in an 800-square-foot home. “I believe in the principle of living well but not excessively. The principle of self reliance is very close to the principle of renewable energy,” he continued. “It’s using what you have, not what somebody else has.” After college, he became an energy consultant and from 2006 to 2013 he was chief sustainability officer for Codding Enterprises in Rohnert Park. There he helped SOMO Village become the first community in North America to be endorsed as a One Planet Community that lives within its fair share of the Earth’s resources. “From a young age, the environmental movement had a profound impact on me,” Syphers said. “But also I saw that it was broken in some ways, because it was based on protests. You have to have answers, not just anger. This agency’s potential is one of those answers.”

hancock a COmmunity TRAIlblAZER in the fight against global warming

ann hanCoCk Co-FounDEr, CEntEr For ClimatE ProtECtion

STAfF [ writer ] mary fricker [ editor ] bleys rose [ production ] robby mcclellan

In the beginning, Ann Hancock drove the movement that led to the creation of Sonoma Clean Power. A Bay Area native and resident of Graton, Hancock, 70, has worked in various capacities as teacher, planner and real estate broker, but for decades she has also been a leader in the drive to create a sustainable world. Since 2001 when she co-founded the nonprofit Climate Protection Campaign in Graton, now the Center for Climate Protection in Santa Rosa, Hancock has focused with laser intensity on global warming. In May 2005 she convened a workshop in Santa Rosa of community

representatives which recommended that Sonoma County and its cities adopt a goal to reduce annual emissions 25 percent below 1990 greenhouse gas levels by 2015. The county and all of its cities adopted the goal that year. To achieve this goal, she put together a team, including investors, to produce the Sonoma County Community Climate Action Plan. The top finding of the plan, issued in 2008, was that creating a community choice agency, which would buy electricity for its community, was the most powerful financing tool that Sonoma County could adopt to reduce its emissions.

In 2011 she and supporters convinced the board of the Sonoma County Water Agency, which is also the Board of Supervisors of Sonoma County, to analyze the potential for a community choice agency in Sonoma County and then to supply the interim manpower and financing to make it happen. Once the creation of Sonoma Clean power was underway, she and her team moved on to work in other communities. “We decided the most powerful action we could take to fulfill our mission was to accelerate the spread of community choice energy programs in

California,” Hancock said. She and her team launched Clean Power Exchange, initially focusing on Silicon Valley, which now has three community choice agencies. Their current focus is on spreading community choice to the Central Valley. Today the Center for Climate Protection is a state leader in multiple initiatives to stop global warming, with revenue of $1.3 million from grants, contracts, individual donations and business sponsorships. This year Sonoma Clean Power contributed $20,000. Photo courtesy Center for Climate Protection

the sonoma clean power issue: bEHIND THE PROJECT Sonoma County has proven to be a national trailblazer in public policy issues and innovations involving climate change, sustainable environmental practices and energy conservation. Perhaps the local governments’ most significant accomplishment has been the advent of Sonoma Clean Power, a community-based power agency dedicated to accelerated goals of reducing greenhouse gas emissions and providing affordable consumer rates. Local journalist Mary Fricker has researched and written a comprehensive and forthright report on the first five years of operations of Sonoma Clean Power. Her reporting includes the delivered promises, the missed targets and the larger risks and challenges still ahead.

In summary, this is a tale of massive ambitions, determined leadership and colossal headwinds straight ahead. As one of her stories reads: “so far, so good.” Sonoma West Publishers has teamed with Fricker’s reporting on behalf of all of Sonoma County’s electric ratepayers who will want to know more about the high stakes of the region’s electric utility marketplace and infrastructure. Mary Fricker, 78, began her journalism career 35 years ago at the Russian River News and was a business reporter at the Santa Rosa Press Democrat for 15 years before retiring in 2006. She is a much-awarded journalist and book author. In 1989 she co-authored the New York Times best-selling

book “Inside Job – The Looting of America’s Savings and Loans,” with Russian River News publisher Steve Pizzo and New York City reporter Paul Muolo. Fricker was awarded the McGill Medal for Journalistic Courage in 2010 from the University of Georgia for her work with the Chauncey Bailey Project in Oakland, three Investigative Reporters & Editors awards, the UCLA Gerald Loeb Award, the George Polk award, the National Headliner Award and an Associated Press award for best business reporting. She now lives near Graton and volunteers at El Molino High School, where her sons and grandsons attended.

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SCP gets graded based on original goals set by board By Mary Fricker Special to Sonoma West Publishers When Sonoma Clean Power was created five years, ago, its board of directors set five key goals: • Reduce greenhouse gas emissions • Provide energy at a competitive cost • Boost the local economy by developing local distributed energy resources • Promote long-term rate stability, energy security, reliability, resilience • Carry out programs to reduce energy consumption Over time directors have adjusted these goals to fit their evolving understanding of what’s needed and what works, especially to shift their focus away from producing more renewables and toward enabling fewer emissions, because they feel that best achieves their commitment to “turning the tide on the climate crisis.” Some want to prioritize projects that perform well in a cost-benefit analysis that compares agency dollars spent to CO2 emissions reduced, but that is not always achieved. Based on interviews with officials and experts in the industry, Sonoma Clean Power merits these grades on meeting these goals: Reduce greenhouse gas emissions: “A” Officially, Sonoma Clean Power has achieved this goal. But not everyone agrees. When Sonoma Clean Power buys geothermal energy from the Geysers in northeast Sonoma County, hydroelectric power from Washington state or wind power from Idaho — all longstanding supplies of clean energy — has it reduced greenhouse gas emissions? Some say no. “My test for what’s valuable is whether or not the CCA is getting new resources built that otherwise wouldn’t have existed, or keeps an existing resource operating that would otherwise shut down. That’s the gold standard,” said Matthew Freedman, an attorney with TURN. TURN is a consumer advocacy nonprofit financed by its members, foundations and fees approved by the California Public Utilities Commission for intervening on behalf of residential customers. “I believe it is what the CCA founders are committed to, but it’s a lot easier and quicker to buy and resell stuff already out there,” Freedman said. “We don’t have all the clean energy infrastructure in place that’s needed to run a zero-carbon grid, so someone’s got to build it. It’s important to ask how well CCAs and other electricity providers, like investor-owned utilities and municipal utilities, are doing,” said Danny Cullenward, an energy economist who advises the California Environmental Protection Agency. But CEO Geof Syphers says buying from new renewable sources has never been the primary goal of community choice agencies. Instead, the main climate goal is to not buy from fossil fuel sources. “If we buy existing coal, aren’t we increasing emissions? But if we buy existing renewables, we’re not reducing emissions? That’s ridiculous,” Syphers said. Sonoma Clean Power has 10 contracts that meet Freedman’s gold standard, and it intends to buy more, Syphers said. It has signed for 70 megawatts of energy from a new solar power plant near Lemoore, 46 megawatts from rebuilt wind turbines in the Altamont Pass area, 80 megawatts of wind being developed in Alameda County and 50 megawatts of solar and 5 megawatts of storage underway in Stanislaus County. All are 20-year contracts. In addition, it has agreed to buy 6 megawatts of solar power from six new projects in Cloverdale, Petaluma and Willits, with three still under construction. These 252 megawatts could cover about 22 percent of the average 350 megawatts of power Sonoma Clean Power needs for its customers, given various solar and wind production constraints. On peak days the agency needs up to 570 megawatts. The long-term contracts are notable to community choice critics who worry the agencies won’t have enough long-term contracts to withstand a repeat of the state’s first deregulation disaster 1998-2001. A major fault of that deregulation was that utilities had not been allowed to enter long-term contracts, so they were vulnerable to soaring wholesale prices. Provide energy at a competitive cost: “B” Directors and their community advisers seem to agree that Sonoma Clean Power rates need to be “competitive” with PG&E. In fact, they have supported building up reserves to be able to subsidize rates if needed. But some directors and community advisers would like to spend more money on local green projects, even if they are “a little more” expensive and could raise costs for ratepayers.

Photo courtesy Sonoma Clean Power

ECO-FRIENDly RESIDENCE — All-electric homes are key to Sonoma Clean Power’s strategy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The agency is helping 2017 wildfire victims rebuild all electric.

Photo courtesy Sonoma Clean Power

AIR POWER — Given that wind and solar produce power intermittently, often at different times of the day, Sonoma Clean Power contracts for both wind and solar for grid reliability.

A particularly strong advocate for ratepayers was early adviser Bob Williamson, retired top corporate auditor with Chevron, who argued repeatedly to give low rates a priority. Some critics think rates should be set as low as possible, arguing that projects haven’t been approved, and shouldn’t be financed, by ratepayers. The agency’s practice has been to adjust rates so they’re below PG&E but leave some money available for programs. While founders said they formed the agency because it could buy clean energy, consumers appear to be more focused on rates, given that only 1,851 out of roughly 224,000 are willing to pay $13 extra each month for 100 percent state-approved renewables. Stimulate the local economy by developing local distributed energy resources: “D” Except for the six 1-megawatt solar projects in Petaluma, Cloverdale and Willits, local projects are not happening. In part, that’s because the Sonoma Clean Power team wants to focus on reducing emissions, for example by promoting electric vehicles, and in part it’s because local projects can be expensive and unpopular with neighbors. The tension among the goals of cleaner energy, competitive rates and local energy is a dilemma that is well understood and much discussed at Sonoma Clean Power. Three years ago agency directors reworded this goal to reflect their evolving priorities. Promote long-term rate stability, energy security, reliability, resilience: “C” Mindful of this goal, Sonoma Clean Power has only adjusted rates four times since it started five years ago, a notable achievement given that its survivability depends on being competitive with PG&E, and PG&E can adjust its rates up to six times a year, Syphers said. Regarding security, reliability and resilience, the agency points to its programs that support electric vehicles, charging stations, energyefficient fire rebuilds and ways customers can help the grid by ramping electricity up or down on demand. On the board’s radar are ways to help implement microgrids, renewables and storage to improve reliability in an era of digital warfare and wildfire. Carry out programs to reduce energy consumption: “B” Even though this goal reduces revenue for Sonoma Clean Power, directors and advisers have argued for a variety of these programs. Here are some of the projects Sonoma Clean Power has underway: NetGreen, the rooftop solar program: Solar customers who produce more solar than they need, and send it to the grid, get a check from Sonoma Clean Power each May. This year Sonoma Clean Power refunded $862,000 to 2,027 customers, up from $639,000 to 1,525 customers in 2018. NetGreen pays the agency’s retail rate plus 1 cent per kilowatt hour. For most residential customers, that would be slightly more than 7 cents per kilowatt hour. Payments max out at $5,000 a year. By comparison,

PG&E pays 3 to 4 cents per kilowatt hour. Drive EV: Electrification of vehicles is its “number one environmental objective” because transportation is where the bulk of local greenhouse gas emissions originate. Sonoma Clean Power spent $2.8 million to arrange average customer discounts of up to $20,000 on 1,262 qualified plug-in electric vehicles and distributed 2,444 free chargers for installation at homes. Customers saved more than $10 million, and the county eliminated 7,104 tons of greenhouse gas emissions over three years, Sonoma Clean Power said. In the future, the agency plans to focus on increasing charging stations to encourage wider EV use. EV charging during the day helps use up the excess electricity that solar panels currently produce midday in California, drives up the value of that mid-day solar which is slumping because of over-supply, helps to create local solar jobs and completes the switch from using fuel from distant oil companies to using clean local energy, supporters say. It’s generally thought to cost roughly half what gasoline fuel does. Check out this calculator: sonomacleanpower.org/drive-evchoose-ev. “Using electric cars to bring that money back into the county could be one of the biggest business development opportunities this county has ever seen,” Syphers said. In October there were 8,222 allelectric and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles registered in Sonoma and Mendocino, out of 543,201 total registered vehicles, according to the state Department of Vehicles. An electric vehicle is estimated to save 5 tons of greenhouse gas emissions per year, similar to the emissions saved by solar panels on a typical Northern California home. The county’s overall goal is to lower annual emissions from 2007 highs of 4.2 million tons down to 2.6 million tons. Do it yourself: Sonoma Clean Power lends energy efficient toolkits and single-burner induction cooktops free to help people save energy at home. DIY Energy and Water Savings Toolkits with devices to measure energy and water use, dimable LED lightbulbs, weather stripping, low-flow shower heads and aerators are available at most county libraries. Energy-saving induction cooktops and pots can be rented at sonomacleanpower.org/ programs/induction-cooking and picked up at Sonoma Clean Power in Santa Rosa or the non-profit Daily Acts in Petaluma. Lead Locally: With a $10 million grant from the California Energy Commission to promote energy efficiency and fuel substitution technologies, and with applications from almost 200 customers, Sonoma Clean Power will soon begin testing advance technologies like heat pump water heaters,

Photo Mary Fricker

GREEN WHEElS — Electrification of vehicles is Sonoma Clean Power’s number one environmental objective, and the agency has spent almost $3 million to arrange customer discounts for vehicles and charging stations to encourage EV use.

radiant ceiling heating and cooling panels, residential attic phase change materials and air to water heat pumps in 15 homes. The agency also plans to open a Santa Rosa store for advanced technologies at 741 Fourth St. in 2020. GridSavvy: At press time 729 Sonoma Clean Power customers had signed up for technology that will let them coordinate their EV chargers, and potentially thermostats and water heaters, with the minute-byminute needs of the California Independent System Operator, which manages the grid. Over the next year Sonoma Clean Power hopes to start bidding the GridSavvy energy resources into the markets to prove the value of customer-owned electricity.

Advanced Energy Rebuild: Sonoma Clean Power got up to $20 million in financial commitments and recruited PG&E and the Bay Area Air Quality Management District to help people rebuild with energy efficiencies after the 2017 wildfires. At press time 205 homeowners had applied with about one-third deciding to rebuild all-electric homes. The homes are projected to be 26 percent more energy efficient and save about $650 a year on utility bills. The consortium conducts seminars on green building for homeowners, contractors, engineers and architects and offers $17,500 to help each homeowner who rebuilds an efficient, sustainable home.


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local projects are hard to do: Why scp gets a “D” One way Sonoma Clean Power was sold to electricity customers — even though it would be yet another government agency — was as a way to seize ratepayer dollars from PG&E shareholders and use them to finance local renewable projects. Here’s how county staff put it in the proposal that supervisors approved on April 23, 2013, when they voted to implement a community choice aggregation agency in Sonoma County: “Sonoma Clean Power plans to focus on the development of local renewable generation sources, as well as implementing local energy efficiency and conservation programs. By keeping the generation revenues ‘at home’ and focusing on local programs, Sonoma Clean Power will create local jobs and improve the local economy.” But CEO Geof Syphers and his board have moved cautiously on this goal, in part because local projects can be costly and make it harder to meet another agency goal of keeping rates competitive with PG&E. They’re not alone. Although MCE, formerly Marin Clean Energy, says on its website, “We promised local renewables. Now we’re delivering,” it contracts for just 31 megawatts in its service area, out of the 749 megawatts it needs on an average day, with an occasional peak of up to 935. MCE was California’s first community choice agency, started in 2010. Sonoma Clean Power appeared to deliver local energy right off the bat, by signing a contract in 2013 with Calpine Corp. at the Geysers geothermal fields in and around northeast Sonoma County for 10 megawatts of power, later increased to 50 megawatts by 2018. In addition, it has since agreed to buy 6 megawatts of local solar power from six projects, with three still under construction. This is the first local solar to supply its EverGreen customers, who pay about $13 a month extra to get 100 percent local and clean energy and have been getting 100 percent geothermal. Thus, Sonoma Clean Power’s local purchases could soon total 56 megawatts of energy. But this year Sonoma Clean Power needs about 350 megawatts on an average day, with an occasional peak of up to 570. Local production is far from filling local needs. Even The Geysers purchase from

Calpine Corp. has been questioned by some who wonder if Sonoma Clean Power can brag about buying up to 50 megawatts of Geysers power, when PG&E said in 2016 that it was buying 425 megawatts from The Geysers, enough to supply all the electricity that Sonoma County needs. In 2019 PG&E is buying about 250 megawatts, a spokesperson said. Syphers replies that it’s more accurate to compare Sonoma Clean Power’s 11 percent geothermal to PG&E’s 5 percent than to compare megawatts. He argues that new contracts with Sonoma Clean Power can keep Calpine facilities operating and encourage Calpine to produce more. In the earliest planning days, Jack Buckhorn, executive director of the North Bay Labor Council, AFL-CIO, supported the idea of forming a local community choice agency as a source of clean energy and local construction jobs. “I was part of the group that agitated for Sonoma Clean Power,” Buckhorn said. “But to this date they have not lived up to the promise to create local building jobs.” He said he understands that it took time for the new agency to get underway. “But now we’re five years in. Where is the five-, 10-, 15-year plan to do it?” he asked.

renewable energy for Sonoma Clean Power. Customers who buy the agency’s 100 percent green, local energy get 84 percent geothermal from The Geysers.

The Feasibility Study Much of the belief that Sonoma Clean Power could boost the local economy and create lots of local jobs goes back to 2011, when the economy was painfully pulling itself out of the worst recession since the Great Depression. That year the board of directors of the Sonoma County Water Agency — which is also the board of supervisors for Sonoma County — authorized the water agency to hire consultants to prepare a peer-reviewed study of the feasibility of launching Sonoma Clean Power. The report concluded that forming a community choice agency in Sonoma County would indeed be feasible. The 168-page study outlined four scenarios, one at status quo and three with development of a variety of local renewable projects by 2020, mostly in solar, biomass, geothermal, wind and storage. In the three development scenarios, megawatts built ranged

from 75 to 335. Long-term jobs created were 20 to 400. Annual economic benefits were $10 million to $80 million. Metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions saved each year ranged from 155,000 to 380,000. And the cost was $267 million to $1.267 billion. Many county and city officials as well as involved citizens have said the feasibility study was influential in convincing them to proceed with forming or joining Sonoma Clean Power. But Syphers and engineer Cordel Stillman, who was the water agency’s key person on the project and now is program director for Syphers, say they felt the study showed the more aggressive scenarios were too expensive to be realistic. “We recognized then we couldn’t do scenarios No. 3 and No. 4. I specifically had those included, so people could see the costs,” Stillman said.

Photo John Grice, courtesy of Calpine Corporation

GEOTHERMAl — Calpine’s Sonoma geothermal plant at The Geysers in northeast Sonoma County is a key source of local

Photo courtesy Sonoma Clean Power

SUN POWER — To promote local generation, Sonoma Clean Power has contracted to buy power from six new 1 megawatt solar projects in Sonoma and Mendocino counties, including this field west of Cloverdale.

Local projects Today, after five years of operation, here’s the status of Sonoma Clean Power’s local development efforts: ProFIT, the small solar fields program: To encourage solar development, Sonoma Clean Power pays $95 per megawatt hour for energy it buys from local solar fields sized up to 1 megawatt, with bonuses of up to $35 per megawatt hour for meeting goals like being developed by a local company or on a previously developed site. That compares to the $65 per megawatt hour average that Sonoma Clean Power was paying for electricity when the program was set up. PG&E has suspended its similar program called ReMAT Feed-in Tariff which paid $89.23 per megawatt hour. Sonoma Clean Power directors have limited the extra cost of the ProFIT program, beyond $65 per megawatt hour, to $600,000 a year or about 6 megawatts. They pay for the ProFIT program with the 2½ cents per kilowatt hour extra that customers pay for EverGreen over CleanStart, The agency said it will do more ProFIT projects when it has more EverGreen ratepayers. Sonoma Clean Power has six solar projects, three still under construction, to produce the 6 megawatts of power. None is by a local company, but most use a majority of local labor, Syphers said. The six projects are in Cloverdale, Willits and four in Petaluma. Energy officials said key challenges for the ProFIT projects are the difficulty of getting a PG&E connection to the grid and the difficulty of finding sites that meet county permit guidelines. Meanwhile, solar projects have become less attractive as solar production in California now at times exceeds demand mid-day, causing at least two problems: sometimes the California Independent System Operator has to pay neighboring states to take the excess solar power, and solar power is getting cheaper, which hurts rooftop solar owners. One answer is to charge more

electric vehicles mid-day, which Sonoma Clean Power promotes. Another answer is storage, which is expensive, getting cheaper but still rare in California. Floating solar: “The largest floating solar project in the U.S.,” said nationwide headlines when Sonoma Clean Power announced in February 2015 that it had signed contracts to buy up to 12.5 megawatts of power a year from floating solar arrays that Pristine Sun was going to build on six Sonoma County water agency wastewater ponds. Completion was expected near the end of 2016. The water agency would lease the ponds to San Francisco-based Pristine for $800 per acre per year. Pristine would own and operate the solar panels, and it would sell the power to Sonoma Clean Power. Syphers said the project was innovative and groundbreaking. But he also said it was experimental and uncertain. He assured his board that beyond some staff time, Sonoma Clean Power had no financial exposure except to buy the power. But Pristine Sun had never developed floating solar, and it ran into design problems. It had trouble getting PG&E to connect the unusual projects to the grid. It had permitting problems. It became entangled in legal and financial disputes involving unrelated projects. It paid Sonoma Clean Power $368,441 for delays, and the two agreed to end the project last year. Plant development: Syphers believes Sonoma Clean Power is years away from owning local power projects, if ever. He prefers to be the contracted buyer for that electricity, using revenue from his customers. That helps the developer get financing and lets Sonoma Clean Power avoid the risks of building and operating the plant. “We don’t have a maintenance crew, service trucks or expertise in construction. We could get it, but there are a lot of companies that want to build projects themselves. We would need to be very mature, and we need a reason why the private sector can’t do it better,” Syphers said.

what energy sources does SCP use? how to leave

sonoma clean power? If Sonoma Clean Power customers return to PG&E, there are the rules and legal procedures that must occur: • If cities or counties wish to withdraw as members and send all of their residential ratepayers and businesses back to PG&E, they have to give six month’s notice and pay Sonoma Clean Power for any losses associated with having bought electricity for them or wait until those energy contracts expire. In 2016, the most recent data available, the payback amount for Sonoma County was roughly $62 million, for Santa Rosa. $58 million. For the smallest member, Cotati, the amount was roughly $2 million. • If individuals, businesses or municipal accounts decide to return to PG&E on their own, they can leave at any time. If they don’t give PG&E six months’ notice, for six months the utility will charge them a transitional rate that can fluctuate each day and may be higher than PG&E’s normal rates. Individuals pay Sonoma Clean Power a $5 departure fee. Businesses pay $25. If they want to return to Sonoma Clean Power, PG&E requires they wait a year. • If Sonoma Clean Power customers don’t pay their bill, in 45 days the agency can transfer them back to PG&E.

Graphic courtesy Sonoma Clean Power and PG&E

RENEWAblES — Sonoma Clean Power is on track to meet the state goal of 50 percent renewable by 2026, and its electricity is 91 percent

carbon free. State regulations don’t allow Sonoma Clean Power or PG&E to take credit for the roughly 130 megawatts of rooftop solar in Sonoma and Mendocino counties, and some of the 126 megawatts of large solar that Sonoma Clean Power has committed to buy are missing from this chart because they are still being developed. Large hydroelectric power is carbon free, but California doesn’t recognize it as qualifying for the state’s renewable standards. Renewable sources of power for Sonoma Clean Power do not include “unbundled renewable energy credits,” a controversial green energy source better known as RECS. Some 2018 data for PG&E was not available at press time.

• If Sonoma Clean Power were to go bankrupt, any financial loss could fall to its employees and suppliers. The member cities, counties and taxpayers are not at risk. Sonoma Clean Power is a Joint Powers Authority which insulates its member cities and counties from Sonoma Clean Power’s debts, said general counsel Jessica Mullan. Ratepayers are not at risk because they could go back to PG&E. • If Sonoma Clean Power decides to close its doors, pay its bills and return its customers en masse to PG&E, it must give PG&E one year’s advance notice, make sure PG&E can supply the power needed and pay PG&E $4.24 per customer account, For today’s roughly 224,000 customers, that would be $949,760.


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deregulation: poorly planned, just like last time CONT. FROM PAGE 1 locally elected boards of directors. Stunned by the new fragmentation, the public utilities commission wants more control over the new community choice agencies, who have to report to the commission but which make their own decisions. The commission wants the ultimate authority to decide how power is purchased and paid for. Angry community choice agencies — which believe they are handling their mandate effectively — accuse commissioners of trying to hold onto power. After five years of trying to work the system, slogging through minutia to try to convince a gnarled bureaucracy that it and the public will benefit from working with community choice agencies, Sonoma Clean Power’s board of directors exploded during their December meeting. They vowed to fight an unelected commission they see as trying to take away their autonomy, thwarting the public will, threatening “our climate fight” and using utilities as pawns to maintain power. They instructed CEO Geof Syphers to be aggressive, to fight any commission interference and enlist help from the state legislature. “It’s become clear that CCAs are perceived as a threat and very aggressive action is being taken to financially disadvantage us,” said Sonoma Clean Power director and county Supervisor Lynda Hopkins. “We need to go on the offense. We need to be the drivers. This is a moral issue.” The disputes could threaten the future of community choice agencies. In the face of “significant financial risk,” Syphers said he has made “fairly significant cuts” in program budgets and has asked staff to cut operating costs, so he can keep building up reserves to cushion potential blows. The turmoil is caused by the state’s recent success in attracting multiple suppliers of energy in competition with utilities, including 19 community choice agencies, almost a million solar projects and 15 independent retailers. Each segment is thought to provide about 16 percent of the state’s electricity and climbing fast. “We are seeing absolutely dramatic changes in California’s electric utility industry, things that most people tell me are absolutely unprecedented in the past 100 years since the industry first came into

being,” Michael Picker, president of the public utilities commission and formerly a renewable energy adviser to Gov. Jerry Brown, told a hearing in Sacramento. “That’s another set of developments, it’s another set of opportunities, that we never really thought through in a coherent way.” Some notable steps: • Between 2014 and 2019, community choice agencies grew from two to 19. • In 2020, building codes will require all new homes to have rooftop solar, even though California already has more mid-day solar than it can use at times and sometimes has to pay to give it away to neighboring states. • Last year the state legislature raised the cap on how much electricity the independent retailers can sell, a cap the state legislature had set after retailers like Enron Corp. played key roles in the dramatic failure of deregulation in 2000. Community choice agencies, TURN and others fought the bill, complaining that retailers buy cheap power with high emissions. Some labor groups supported the bill, believing retailers are most likely to create jobs. By 2030, 85 percent of the customers who pay utilities to deliver their power might be buying that power from someone else, the commission predicted. “The commission has to make a choice. Is the future letting a thousand flowers bloom and promoting a customer-choice-driven, competitive-market-based, set of outcomes, or is the state looking to engage in centralized long-term resource planning?” said Matthew Freedman, staff attorney with TURN, the energy issue watchdog agency. “It’s hard to come up with a statewide plan to get things done. It used to be that politicians could just tell utilities to do it,” said Freedman. Then even more dramatic changes erupted, with two years of murderous firestorms, another PG&E bankruptcy in January, this time caused by the massive fire losses it faces, and a flurry of unpredictable bills in Sacramento this year that tackle nearly every aspect of energy markets in California, from potentially dramatic increases in PG&E rates to profound challenges to community choice agencies. Syphers said he understands concerns that a fractured market could make it harder for the state to achieve its clean-energy goals. He said he’s confident community choice agencies and utilities can coexist and Californians will benefit. He notes that PG&E’s 2001

Photos California Public Utilities Commission

STATE HEADqUARTERS — The California Public Utilities Commission, headquartered at 505 Van Ness Avenue in San

Francisco, has overseen state utilities since 1911, today including electricity, natural gas, telecommunications, passenger transportation and water. It is locked in disputes with the new community choice aggregation industry which wants local officials to have more control.

CPUC COMMISSION — Five commissioners, appointed by the governor and confirmed by the state Senate, make final

decisions for the commission during their six-year staggered terms. Left to right: Genevieve Shiroma, President Michael Picker, Clifford Rechtschaffen, Liane M. Randolph, Martha Guzman Aceves.

bankruptcy was a key reason the legislature approved the creation of community choice agencies, to provide market stability, and the

agencies are fulfilling that role today while continuing to expand renewable energy at a time when a bankrupt PG&E can not.

“California’s energy markets and regulations are in need of repair and updating to make sure ratepayers and the climate are protected,”

who buys the electricity? The state public utilities commission has said in multiple hearings and reports that it is afraid community choice agencies cannot be relied on to meet the state’s renewable energy goals or procure enough power to ensure the Independent System Operator, which manages the grid, is fully supplied at all times. It wants the right to tell community choice agencies how to meet the state’s energy needs, especially how to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and it wants utilities to be central buyers for the state, buying power to ensure ample supply and assigning the costs to the community choice agencies in their area. “To shift the decision-making authority on

programs and power contracts from locallyelected officials to the CPUC is a mistake,” Sonoma Clean Power replied in a report. Instead, community choice agencies argue for limited central procurement, as a backstop to cover electricity that community choice agencies or others have not contracted for. “That makes sense, because it keeps the lights on while ensuring that public power providers have an option to purchase the energy they need at lower prices,” said Sonoma Clean Power CEO Geof Syphers. Syphers notes that in the past the commission has approved, sometimes even required, the high-cost contracts that have helped make electricity rates in California

among the highest in the nation. “We do not want to repeat that mistake,” Sonoma Clean Power said in its report. But others say California has made important progress toward a cleaner grid mainly because utilities have procured new clean-energy resources under long-term contracts. Now utilities losing customers to community choice agencies are also losing their appetite for buying power. For example, PG&E has said it will close its Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant by 2025. At first it said it will try to replace the nuclear energy with renewables. But more recently it has decided not to replace that power at all

because so many of its customers are leaving for community choice. Can fragmented community choice agencies be counted on to do that heavy lifting, to meet state goals? The public utilities commission has given stakeholders a few months to decide how the central procurement plan will work. As for utilities, they’re reluctant to take on the central-buyer job, so Sonoma Clean Power and PG&E are working together on this issue. Southern California Edison noted that the last time the state set up a central procurer, the CalPX or Power Exchange in 1997, it was bankrupt by 2001.

... and who pays for it? California’s investor-owned utilities want the public utilities commission to increase the exit fee that community choice customers have to pay the utilities when they leave the utility. The purpose of the fee is to reimburse the utility and its ratepayers for power they’re paying for but no longer need. Community choice customers already pay PG&E an exit fee that’s equal to about half of the cost of power, excluding delivery, for a typical residential customer. This fee appears on their bill as a Power Charge Indifference Adjustment. Syphers said the principle of the fee is fair. The board of directors for Sonoma Clean Power, mostly elected city and county officials who represent constituents who are both PG&E and Sonoma Clean Power customers, say they want fairness for both. But they have concluded that the fee, calculated in secret with data recently revealed to include $200 million in errors, is higher than

it needs to be, and they are angrily challenging it. They think PG&E should have to make an effort to bring its costs down, instead of just charging Sonoma Clean Power customers more. Syphers estimates that the Power Charge Indifference Adjustment is generally costing his customers about $70 million a year, or $314 each. Here’s the background on the exit fee: When customers leave PG&E to get their energy elsewhere, as from Sonoma Clean Power, the utility doesn’t lose money. That’s mainly because 40 years ago the California Public Utilities Commission decided utilities would not make or lose money when they buy electricity to sell to their customers. They would break even. Instead, they’d make money on distribution, and they’re allowed a profit when they build and operate power plants. The idea was to promote conservation by removing the utilities’ motive for selling more

energy. In the utility business, this is called decoupling. So when customers leave PG&E, the financial danger for PG&E is not declining sales. The danger is the cost of the energy PG&E already bought for the departing customers — with commission approval — and now doesn’t need. This can include expensive renewables that regulators required the utility to buy. That’s why the state legislation that allowed the creation of community choice agencies said PG&E can charge the departing customers a fee if PG&E estimates that it will lose money when it resells the unneeded electricity into the open market. In recent years the fee has taken some big leaps. That’s because wholesale energy prices are low now, and PG&E claims it can’t sell its extra power for enough to cover its cost. Sonoma Clean Power benefits from those lower wholesale energy prices when it buys

electricity for its customers, so some of that benefit should flow to PG&E through the higher fee, legislators decided. If wholesale prices rise in the future, the fee should go down. Historically, the fee decreased by 62 percent from 2012 to 2013 and increased by 211 percent in the three following years, according to a UCLA report. Since then it’s up about 43 percent. Syphers worries that decoupling means PG&E has no incentive to make sure it acquires the best-priced power, or sells unneeded power at the highest possible price, since PG&E profits are guaranteed, no matter what. The public utilities commission is studying the exit fee, and community choice agencies are deeply involved in the conversation. If the commission keeps pushing the fee higher, it could eventually push its rates above PG&E, sending Sonoma Clean Power customers fleeing back to PG&E. “This is a big deal,” Syphers told his board.

Deregulating electricity raises concerns As the state’s three utilities hand over much of the job of buying electricity for California to 19 community choice agencies, here are some of the issues all parties are working to resolve: • How much business can utilities lose and still be the power providers of last resort? All three California utilities have told regulators they do not want to continue in that role, according to the public utilities commission. But then what happens if a community choice agency fails? • How will utilities be compensated for power they bought, with the approval of the public utilities commission, but will no longer need when customers depart? Who makes sure that compensation is fair to all sides? How will community choice agencies be compensated if their customers depart? • What obligation will community choice agencies have to prop up the grid in the event of a 2001-style collapse? Who will coordinate that? • Who will protect electricity customers from incompetent or predatory suppliers? • Who will sign the billions of dollars in long-term power-purchase contracts that builders must have before they can get construction financing to build clean-energy power plants? • Who makes sure the contracts signed by 19 uncoordinated buyers meet state second-by-second electricity needs, meet state greenhouse gas emission goals, don’t exceed transmission capacity anywhere on the lines and include enough reliable back-up supply but not too much?


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meanwhile, back at the sonoma clean power office ...

Photo Loren Hansen

bOARD — Sonoma Clean Power board of directors at their monthly meeting at agency headquarters July 11, clockwise from left:

Point Arena Councilmember Jonathan Torrez, Cloverdale Mayor Melanie Bagby, Sonoma Mayor Amy Harrington, Windsor Councilmember Bruce Okrepkie, Sebastopol Vice Mayor Patrick Slayter, Cotati Councilmember Mark Landman, Mendocino County Supervisor Dan Gjerde, Petaluma Councilmember Mike Healy, Sonoma Clean Power officials general counsel Jessica Mullan, CEO Geof Syphers, director of internal operations Stephanie Reynolds, chief operating officer Michael Koszalka, PG&E guest, director of customer service Erica Torgerson. Absent were Rohnert Park, Sonoma County and Santa Rosa. The success of Sonoma Clean Power is in the hands of 22 employees, an elected board of directors and a volunteer committee of community advisers. The board of directors and the advisory committee meet regularly in a conference room at Sonoma Clean Power headquarters on the fifth floor of 50 Santa Rosa Avenue in Santa Rosa. They hope to move into permanent headquarters at 431 E. Street, remodeled for roughly $12 million, in 2021. Meetings are open to the public and most of the staff also attend these meetings. The gatherings are intimate, with staff, directors and advisers easily accessible for conversations with the public. The schedule of meetings is posted at sonomacleanpower.org/calendar. Although Sonoma Clean Power is overseen by state and federal regulators who try to ensure a reliable flow of electricity to citizens, these regulators do not control Sonoma Clean Power operations. The staff Heading the staff is Geof Syphers, who has been CEO since the beginning. He began working on the Sonoma Clean Power project in 2012, when the Sonoma County Water Agency hired him at $240,000 a year to help with issues around sustainability, energy contracts and government relations.

Syphers became CEO in January 2014. His five-year contract which began Sept. 1, 2016, provides for a base salary of $275,000 a year, a 2 percent annual cost of living increase and an annual performance-based increase of up to 3 percent. Annual cost of benefits is estimated at $47,250. By comparison, the chief executive of MCE (formerly Marin Clean Energy) is paid $340,000 plus $65,437 in various benefits, and in 2018 the top Sonoma County administrator got $283,285 in total pay and another $66,885 in benefits, county officials confirmed. In May, Sonoma Clean Power hired its first No. 2 person, chief operating officer Mike Koszalka, who has worked in the energy industry for 40 years, including for PG&E and most recently with the global consulting firm ICF International in Portland. Salary and benefits for the 22employee staff are about $3.7 million a year. Employees do not have a pension, instead they have a defined contribution plan. Sonoma Clean Power does not have a chief financial officer. It contracts with outside accounting firms. And it does not have a chief technical officer. Some observers have said at public meetings that these lapses worry them. The board of directors An 11-member board of directors sets policy for Sonoma Clean Power and its staff. The board includes

representatives from Sonoma and Mendocino counties and the 11 member cities: Cloverdale, Cotati, Fort Bragg, Petaluma, Point Arena, Rohnert Park, Santa Rosa, Sebastopol, Sonoma, Willits and Windsor. Usually the governments appoint an elected official to represent them on the Sonoma Clean Power board. The current chairperson is Cotati councilmember Mark Landman. Rarely do Sonoma Clean Power directors have professional experience in the energy markets. All admit to facing a steep learning curve and pledge their commitment to the task. “I’m running a $100 million corporation,” Windsor Councilmember Bruce Okrepkie said at one meeting, seeming to marvel at the unusual opportunity for a councilmember and insurance broker from a town of about 28,000 people. The volunteer Community Advisory Committee The 11 members of this committee advise Syphers and the board. Many have deep experience in the power industry. Some put their emphasis on protecting ratepayers, some stress fiscal strength, some argue for “audacious” green energy goals, some want to see local generation and local projects and all believe Sonoma Clean Power is an important front in the struggle against greenhouse gas emissions. Before Syphers goes to his board

with a request, he usually runs his ideas by these advisers and then shares their input with the board. Directors have repeatedly said that input from the committee volunteers is valuable to them and plays a key role in their decisions. The committee does not typically weigh in on specific electricity contracts because sometimes negotiations can’t wait, though it can request a review. A new kind of power company The governing structure at Sonoma Clean Power, a public agency with revenue of about $180 million mainly from power sales, is different from the $16.8 billion publicly traded PG&E Corp. PG&E has a board of directors who answer to shareholders. It is regulated by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission in Washington, D.C., and by the California Public Utilities Commission in San Francisco, where five commissioners appointed by the governor carry out state energy laws, set policy for PG&E and must approve key PG&E business decisions including rates. The Office of Ratepayer Advocates and The Utility Reform Network argue for reasonable rates and consumer protections. An important job of the California Public Utilities Commission is to make sure PG&E rates are fair to ratepayers but also high enough for PG&E to be profitable, so PG&E can stay in business and continue to supply electricity to its customers. Sonoma Clean Power doesn’t get the same oversight or protection. Its main oversight comes from its local board of directors. Community choice agencies like Sonoma Clean Power are overseen but not controlled by the public utilities commission. The commission has to approve their start-up operation plans, and Sonoma Clean Power has to show that it has contracted for enough power to serve its customers plus file more than 60 annual compliance reports with various agencies, Syphers said. But operations, energy contracts and rate decisions are handled by Sonoma Clean Power’s board members, who come and go. Since Sonoma Clean Power began in May 2014, 43 people, including some alternates, have served on the 11member board. Only Landman and Okrepkie have been on the board since the beginning. One issue common to both the California Public Utilities Commission and Sonoma Clean Power is some public concern about conflicts of interest. Sonoma Clean Power has a conflict of interest code that covers the board

of directors, Community Advisory Committee members and staff. Still, some board members have expressed concern about the strong energy interests of some advisory committee members, and some board watchers have said a conflict of interest occurs every time Sonoma Clean Power directors approve consulting contracts with the Sonoma County water agency. That’s because by design one of the 11 Sonoma Clean Power directors is a director of the water agency. Today Sonoma Clean Power pays the water agency up to $275,000 a year to conduct education programs for students and teachers, including visits to 49 schools in 2018. Other observers have expressed a need for the agency to set standards for ex parte communications. An ex parte communication occurs when a board or committee member communicates privately with someone who might be affected by a decision. “With the huge funds under the control of Sonoma Clean Power directors, it is imperative that they institute a strict policy of prohibitions against ex parte communications with contractors and lobbyists who stand to potentially rake in millions in Sonoma Clean Power contracts,” said David Keller, a government watchdog and a recently retired board member of Sonoma County Conservation Action, a leading environmental organization. Ex parte communications have become a hot issue in California in recent years with a cascade of revelations that officials at the California Public Utilities Commission and the California Coastal Commission were meeting, emailing and talking privately with utilities, developers and other parties affected by the commissions’ decisions. Keller also believes an independent audit of how Sonoma Clean Power sets rates is needed, something similar to the California Public Utilities Commission’s review of PG&E rate setting, to make sure rates are properly set. For example, when PG&E raises its rates, Sonoma Clean Power usually does, too. Who makes sure that’s needed? Who independently watches for duplicity by suppliers that drives up costs to ratepayers? “Who’s following the ratepayers’ money?” asks Keller. “Somebody absolutely will try to game this. What’s in place to prevent that?” Syphers said board members have told him they expect the staff to run the show well and hire professional help when needed. They expect Syphers to lay out the technical issues for them with detail and clarity, and the board will have a thorough public discussion.

The ACtion’s in the power pit In a wide open room that her team calls the power pit, high above Santa Rosa’s Courthouse Square, Deb Emerson spends much of her day watching at least four computer monitors flashing with mutating hieroglyphics. As data scurries across her screens, she is tracking, assessing, calculating and planning her next move on one of the most demanding commodity markets in the world, the market for electricity. Emerson is Sonoma Clean Power’s director of power services. The electricity needs of the county’s residents and businesses change by the split second, and it’s Emerson’s job to make sure that Sonoma Clean Power’s 224,000-plus customers can get exactly what they need at any given moment. Emerson has been navigating this energy netherworld for more than 20 years.

Most recently she was vice president and senior trader for Constellation Energy, one of the industry giants, where she managed their western United States hydropower and wind portfolio from her desk in Baltimore. Before joining Constellation in 2001, she was an energy trader for Tulsabased Williams Energy Market and Trading for three years, where she traded through the chaos and collapse of the California electricity market in 2000 and 2001. Today Emerson is not an energy trader. In industry jargon, she’s an “originator,” which means that she manages Sonoma Clean Power’s energy portfolio, buying both long and short-term contracts and adjusting as needed. She reports transactions to the California Independent System Operator which manages the region’s electricity grid from its headquarters in Folsom. “I put the pieces of the

puzzle together,” she said. Working with her in the power pit are senior power services manager Rebecca Simonson, a mechanical engineer with advanced degrees from Sonoma State University and the University of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia, and Carlos Gomes, a financial and market analyst with a degree from the Universidade do Estado do Rio de Janeiro and a Professional Certificate in Finance from the University of California at San Diego. By email and telephone, Emerson is in frequent contact with other energy experts, many of whom she has worked with for years. On her screens she watches for emails, breaking news, Nymex natural gas prices, charts, graphs, forecasting, market action, weather trends and more. Sonoma Clean Power buys electricity from energy giants like Constellation, and it is also

Photo Sonoma Clean Power

IN THE PIT — The power pit crew handles power procurement for Sonoma Clean Power, left to right:

senior power services manager Rebecca Simonson, director of power services Deb Emerson, financial and market analyst Carlos Gomes.

diversified into multiple types of contracts from generators in several states. Buying power is challenging. Besides standard contract risks like whether the supplier will perform as

promised, the contracts themselves are fiendishly complex, easily 30 to 100 singlespaced pages of charts, jargon, contingencies, damages, indemnities, covenants, collateral requirements,

defaults, downgrades, disruptions and remedies. No one knows where energy market prices will be a few weeks from today, much less for the years covered by some contracts.

a glimpse at caiso (California Independent System Operator) On the southern edge of Folsom east of Sacramento sits the nerve center of California’s electricity markets, the headquarters of the California Independent System Operator, manager of one of the largest power grids in the world. An independent nonprofit that opened in 1998 when the state restructured its wholesale electricity industry, the Independent System Operator matches buyers and sellers for more than 28,000 market transactions every day and routs electricity across the high-voltage long distance power lines of the electron superhighway to 30 million customers 24/7. Because electricity can not yet be

cost-effectively stored, supply and demand must always be in balance. Pictured at right, the 10 visual displays, on a wall 80 feet wide by 6½ feet high in the Folsom control center, let operators grasp volumes of information at a glance. Source: California ISO. To schedule a tour, go to caiso.com/about/Pages/OurBusiness/ ToursSpeakingEngagements.aspx. To watch the California energy market unfold in real time, go to caiso.com/Pages/ ISOToday.aspx. Photo courtesy California ISO

To meet the 11 people who serve on Sonoma Clean Power’s volunteer Community Advisory Committee, and to find out how you can be on the committee, go to Page 9.


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What’s a CCA, and are there more of them in california? Sonoma Clean Power is a “community choice aggregation” government agency, so called because communities join together to aggregate their electricity purchases. PG&E delivers their electricity and sends out their bills. The community choice aggregation (commonly called CCA in the industry) agencies were approved by the California legislature in 2002, as an alternative to monopoly and municipal utilities. The first began in Marin County in 2010. Sonoma Clean Power was second in 2014, formed first to serve Sonoma County and then Mendocino County in 2017. Today 19 agencies are operating throughout the state and at least 12 may be forming, according to the Clean Power Exchange in Santa Rosa, which tracks the industry. These agencies now control 40 percent of the electricity bought in PG&E’s

in 2016 the agencies started CalCCA, a lobbying and research group based in Concord to represent them. Sonoma Clean Power CEO Geof Syphers is vice president of CalCCA. The agencies are spawning a nationwide network of consultants, financiers, lawyers, data and customer managers and lobbyists that critics say are starting to look like just another giant industry. California is one of eight states that have approved these aggregation agencies.

territory, according to PG&E. They believe local officials will do a better job of procuring clean, cheap electricity than the giant utilities and the California Public Utilities Commission that oversees those utilities. In February they proposed to the commission that utilities “be removed entirely from the retail generation side of the business.” To some, this is the triumph of consumers over powerful monopolies and corrupt regulators. To others, this is a concern. The major question that CCAs like Sonoma Clean Power face is whether all community choice agencies will be reliable, and in times of trouble, what obligation will they have to the grid? The status of community choice agencies is challenged frequently at the state level, where they could be wiped out by the stroke of a regulatory pen, and

Map courtesy Clean Power Exchange

looking at local emissions data what’s a “renewable?”

!

That’s an interesting question. California requires that retail sellers of electricity, like utilities and Sonoma Clean Power, get 50 percent of their electricity from “eligible renewable energy resources” by the end of 2026. Eligible are biodiesel, biomass, biomethane, fuel cell, geothermal, small hydropower (30 megawatts or less), conduit hydroelectric, water supply or conveyance system, incremental hydroelectric, municipal solid waste combustion, municipal solid waste conversion, ocean thermal, ocean wave, large-scale solar, tidal current and wind. ! Not eligible are nuclear, large hydropower and rooftop solar. Nuclear! 6doesn’t qualify critics waste. ! ! because ! ! fear:the radioactive ! !D ! Large hydroelectric power is carbon free, but it doesn’t qualify because ! (1)! California ! has lots of large! hydro and !to include it in the ! standards would greatly reduce the need to add more renewables, (2) ! environmentalists are concerned over the ecological effects of large dams, (3) climate watchers are concerned that large dams aren’t sustainable! and (4) building those and ! dams! pollutes ! ! ! destroys ! ! natural ! resources. ! trying ! solar ! ! because ! ! ! ! Rooftop doesn’t qualify legislators are to ! encourage ! ! utility-scale ! ! transactions ! ! by large !retailers. ! They ! think ! of! rooftop solar as a reduction in demand rather than an increase in supply.! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! !

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Here’s the difference: 1 short ton = 0.907 metric tons. To simplify, Sonoma West just says “tons.”

p EMISSIONS — How much greenhouse gas does power sold by

Sonoma Clean Power and PG&E emit? For people who want to reduce CO2 emissions because of climate concerns, this chart is the bottom line. (Pounds of CO2 per megawatt hour, verified by The Climate Registry, a Los Angeles nonprofit that operates greenhouse gas reporting programs globally.) The PG&E decline from 2015 is in part because as customers leave for community choice agencies, the ratio of renewable energy per remaining customers rises, according to the UCLA Luskin Center for Innovation. The CleanStart rise in 2017 reflects less hydropower in the 2017 mix. Graphic courtesy Sonoma Clean Power

t COUNTy EMISSIONS — Sonoma County produced about 3.4 million

tons of greenhouse gas emissions in 2016, the most recent year available, down from a high of about 4.2 million tons in 2007, according to Santa Rosa-based Center for Climate Protection. The county and cities are trying to get down to 2.6 million tons a year. Electricity emissions fell from about 683,000 tons in 2013 to 297,000 tons in 2016, with Sonoma Clean Power accounting for much of those savings, the report said. Calculations for this table can be found at: climateprotection.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/03/ 2016-GHG-Report-Sonoma-Co-FINAL-1.pdf.

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Graphic courtesy Center for Climate Protection

the spotty history of electricity we’ve had deregulation in california local power !

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In 1995 the California Public Utilities Commission voted to deregulate the state’s electricity industry, which was struggling under some of the highest electricity prices in the nation. The idea was to bring down high rates by introducing competition to the monopoly utilities. Those high rates had earlier been approved by the commission in part to let utilities finance energy efficiency, renewables and nuclear power after the energy crisis of the 1970s. But by the late 1990s the rates looked too high, especially compared to the low market cost of natural gas. In March 1998 the state opened a deeply flawed deregulated market that would become famous for the ease with which companies like Enron could game it. In May 2000 wholesale prices began to spike, the first sign of a crisis that lasted until June 2001. Because deregulation had forced utilities to sell off their power generation plants and forbade them to sign long-term power contracts, utilities were forced to buy the soaring wholesale power, but the

legislature had capped what they could charge their customers in the retail market. By the end of January 2001 the California electricity markets had collapsed, and the state Department of Water Resources had to step in to buy power for Californians. In April 2001 PG&E filed for bankruptcy. Independent power retailers like Enron dumped their customers back on the utilities and the state. Blackouts rolled through California. The electricity market was in shambles. One step the legislature took to claw its way out of the chaos was to pass Assembly Bill 117 in 2002, which established the right of communities to create community choice aggregation agencies to buy power for themselves, as an alternative to monopoly and municipal utilities and partly with the hope that local officials could protect customers from bad actors like Enron. Today California utilities once again have some of the highest electricity prices in the nation, approved by the state public utilities commission to encourage renewables and ensure ample supply, and

once again the market cost of electricity is low, especially natural gas. Communities are rushing to form their own community choice agencies, which are able to sell cleaner electricity at cheaper rates than utilities that hold more expensive long-term contracts. Critics warn that this time it’s community choice agencies that could be vulnerable to soaring rates, because they don’t own power plants, some don’t yet have many long-term contracts, and they can’t readily raise rates because their customers can flee to utilities, potentially swamping utilities while leaving the community choice agencies insolvent. But community choice agencies say they’re buying plenty of clean power to meet the state’s needs, including ample long-term contracts as suppliers become comfortable with their financial track record. They’re confident local control can avoid the kind of catastrophe that hit ratepayers 20 years ago when the unelected public utility commission and the giant utilities were running the show.

companies before

The public’s interest in starting local electricity retailers like Sonoma Clean Power in some ways represents a return to the past. A century ago municipal utilities fell out of favor because some politicians had kept rates too low in order to curry favor with voters, neglected infrastructure, hired inept people so they could pay low salaries, refused to serve some customers and favored their friends, according to some historians. Americans decided monopolies like PG&E, with managers who were professionals and investors to take the risk, but regulated by a public utilities commission like the railroads, could do a better job.


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Page 8 scp edition August 1, 2019

PG&E: still the county’s energy giant CONT. FROM PAGE 1 worked for the county’s Economic Development Board where among other projects he helped develop the Sonoma County Tourism Office. He has a master’s degree in public administration from Sonoma State University. Active in the community, he is a founding board member of the Children’s Museum of Sonoma County and a member of the Oak Grove Union School District Board of Trustees in Santa Rosa. Horak and his team work in an industry that is in turmoil. In this upheaval, it’s PG&E employees who have to keep the lights on, even for the customers who abandon them but still need them. “I am proud to support the employees who work for PG&E. Every day they work extremely hard to ensure customers have safe and reliable gas and electric service. Through the challenges facing our organization, we all continue to be focused on helping our customers,” Horak said. PG&E is a publicly traded company. Many of its shareholders are Sonoma and Mendocino county residents, through their stock accounts, their pension plans and their mutual funds. Although promoters of Sonoma Clean Power saw value in no longer having to share profits with PG&E shareholders, many of those shareholders are their neighbors. Shareholders do get profits, but they also take risk and sometimes cover losses, as in the fatal gaspipeline explosion in San Bruno in 2010. At press time, PG&E shares had fallen from $70 to $18 since the beginning of 2017. In late 2017 PG&E suspended dividends on its stock because of potential liability related to the wildfires. Electricity users often complain about PG&E being a monopoly that charges high rates, but PG&E by law can not profit on electricity sales. It

Healdsburg is the only area of Sonoma County that is not a member of Sonoma Clean Power. Instead, the Healdsburg Electric Department is a municipal utility founded in 1899 and a member of the Northern California Power Agency in Roseville. The Northern California Power Agency is a nonprofit consortium headed by local officials from its 16 member communities who jointly build and operate a fleet of power plants. They emphasize clean energy resources and promote energy efficiency. Healdsburg reports residential rates that are about 40 percent lower than PG&E and about 35 percent lower than Sonoma Clean Power. Its standard electricity is 42 percent renewable compared to 49 percent for Sonoma Clean Power and 39 percent for PG&E. All three offer a more expensive 100 percent renewable option, which for Healdsburg is geothermal from The Geysers. A municipal utility buys and sells power like Sonoma Clean Power does. It also delivers the power and sends out the bills, like PG&E does.

Photo Sonoma West archives

JoE horak, PG&E north bay SEnior manaGEr mainly makes its money on delivering the power, and those rates must be approved by the California Public Utilities Commission. Often recognized as a green energy provider, PG&E is No. 4 overall and the top U.S. company on Newsweek’s 2017 Green Rankings. That year it was one of only eight U.S. gas and electric companies to make the Dow Jones Sustainability North America Index which tracks corporate sustainability. In 2018 it made the Corporate Responsibility Magazine’s 100 Best Corporate Citizens, which recognizes “standout environmental” and other achievements. It’s recognized periodically as being first or second for connecting more rooftop solar customers to the grid than any other utility in the nation. Sonoma and Mendocino counties have benefitted from green initiatives undertaken by PG&E and its regulator, the California Public Utilities Commission. For example, since 2006 PG&E

what about healdsburg?

Photo Mary Fricker

TRANSMISSION lINES — Sonoma Clean Power buys electricity for most people in Sonoma and Mendocino counties, but Pacific Gas & Electric Co. still delivers it, via high-voltage transmission lines and switching centers like the PG&E substation on River Road in Fulton.

energy efficiency programs have provided almost $56 million in incentives and in the first year saved more than $70 million in energy costs for Sonoma County ratepayers, including Sonoma Clean Power customers, according to PG&E

spokesperson Deanna Contreras. The programs are largely financed by a monthly “electric public purpose programs” fee that the public utilities commission requires PG&E to collect from ratepayers for this purpose.

a contentious first round with SCP’s buying plans Sonoma Clean Power, and all power providers in California, had to file their firstever Integrated Resource Plan, a detailed plan for buying power through 2030, with the California Public Utilities Commission by last August. The commission, which oversees the energy industry in California, wanted to see if suppliers plan to have enough power to meet the needs of a cantankerous grid. Its reaction to the reports? Dismay. But first the big news, which community choice agencies said was the revelation that California will largely depend on them for procuring power in the future. In their plans, the agencies told the commission they expect to contract for 10,000 megawatts of power by 2030, while utilities and independent retailers proposed to invest in only about 1,000 new megawatts. “The new IRP reflects a seismic shift in procurement responsibility,” said Beth

Vaughan, executive director of the agencies’ lobbying arm, CalCCA, in a statement. But about 12,000 megawatts will be needed, and that’s six times what community choice agencies bought through 2017, said a commission clearly troubled by relying on start-ups. “This seems to be a serious challenge,” said the commission. Sonoma Clean Power filed its 14-page Integrated Resource Plan by the August deadline but said the commission’s template may create inaccuracies, which it offered to help fix, and two months later it produced its 48-page preferred version. An exasperated commission said to follow the template. Of 19 community choice agencies filing, the commission did not approve 16, including Sonoma Clean Power. All investor-owned utilities passed. Sonoma Clean Power did most things right, but it failed to give “any quantitative

evidence” that it works to minimize nitrogen oxide emissions near disadvantaged communities, the commission said. But the agency has no emissions near disadvantaged communities. CEO Geof Syphers said he will add that information and refile. The commission complained that community choice agencies reported that they plan to buy solar, wind and batteries supplemented by imported hydroelectric power, but they ignored the need to ensure reliability between now and 2030 with natural gas, especially with the coming closure of Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant. A miffed commission also said they were very concerned with “the attitude displayed by some CCAs with respect to the IRP process.” A number of community choice agencies said their generation choices were tentative, the commission shouldn’t rely on them and their local directors’ preferences would override the commission’s Integrated

understanding your energy bill

Resource Plan. “This demonstrates the crux of the problem the state will face in coming years as more and more load is served by non-IOU, and specifically CCA, providers,” the report said. “While local resource preferences may vary and should be respected to a degree,” ultimately the commission will use its authority to make sure electricity for the entire system is green and reliable, it said. Filing requirements will be stricter next time, the commission vowed. But the community choice agencies argue that the Integrated Resource Plans are planning documents and should not become mandates that would unwisely force them to lock in expensive purchases prematurely. The Integrated Resource Plans, mandated by SB 350 in 2015, are required every two years. See Sonoma Clean Power’s version at sonomacleanpower.org/documents.

Common eleCtriC bill example

If you’re a Sonoma Clean Power customer, here’s how you can see if you’re saving money over being a PG&E customer: Using your monthly Energy Statement, do this calculation: Compare the “Generation Credit” to the sum of the “Total Sonoma Clean Power Electric Generation Charge” and the “Power Charge Indifference Adjustment.” The “generation credit” is what PG&E is saying it would have charged you for electricity. The sum of the other two charges is what you’re paying as a Sonoma Clean Power customer. 1. Account Number 2. PG&E Electric Delivery Charges This is PG&E’s charge for the delivery of electricity. It includes transmission, distribution, and a variety of other fees. It does NOT include generation charges if you’re an SCP customer. 3. Sonoma Clean Power Electric Generation Charges This is SCP’s charge for generation – the cost of producing the electricity you use. 4. Generation Credit This number is the amount that PG&E would have charged you for Electric Generation. This number is helpful in comparing SCP’s electric generation cost to PG&E’s electric generation cost. 5. Power Charge Indifference Adjustment This fee is required by PG&E of all Sonoma Clean Power customers. It is intended to ensure that customers who switch to SCP pay for the above-market cost of energy that PG&E bought on their behalf prior to the change in service. 6. Franchise Fee Surcharge This fee is collected by PG&E to pay for the right to use public streets to run gas and electric service. 7. Total PG&E Electric Delivery Charges This is the sum of PG&E’s charges for electric delivery, which matches the charge on the summary page of your bill.

Graphic courtesy Sonoma Clean Power

SCP’s most common energy rates at a glance, compared Graphic courtesy Sonoma Clean Power

A typical Sonoma Clean Power residential customer saves $6.94 a month compared to PG&E, and a typical commercial customer saves $15.22. Without the PG&E PCIA/FF, which is a fee that ratepayers who leave PG&E

have to pay, a typical residential customer would save $16.71 monthly and for commercial, $37.17, according to an analysis prepared jointly by Sonoma Clean Power and PG&E. In September Sonoma Clean Power

rates are estimated to go up about 5.7 percent for an average residential customer, with 2 percent attributable to Sonoma Clean Power and 3.7 percent to PG&E. Sonoma Clean Power will still be 2 percent cheaper than PG&E.

EverGreen is electricity that Sonoma Clean Power sells to a typical residential customer for about $13 a month more than its common product, CleanStart, because EverGreen is 100 percent green and local, solar and

geothermal energy. Sonoma Clean Power does not make a profit on EverGreen. At press time three of its 11 members - the cities of Sonoma, Cotati and Sebastopol - had switched all of their municipal accounts to EverGreen.


august 1, 2019 scp EDITION Page 9

www.sonomawest.com

Members of the Community Advisory Committee Eleven people serve on Sonoma Clean Power's volunteer Community Advisory Committee, which analyzes operations and issues and advises the agency’s elected board of directors and staff. Listed alphabetically, the advisers are: Karen Baldwin, 70, is a retired attorney who specialized in tax-exempt finance, a type of business financing that structures bonds so the interest they pay the investors who buy them is exempt from tax. Her projects included financing new renewable energy projects in Contra Costa County and Kauai, Hawaii. In the 1980s, while working for a law firm in Colorado, she was bond counsel for an ultimately unsuccessful Contra Costa County project to build a waste-toenergy plant. Her role was to ensure that the project was structured so that its bonds were karEn balDwin tax exempt. Karen moved to the north shore of the island of Kauai in 2005, where she was in-house counsel for the island’s electrical provider, Kauai Island Utility Cooperative. At that time residents in Kauai were paying almost four times as much per kilowatt hour for their electricity as U.S. mainland ratepayers. In 2009 Karen was elected to the co-op board of directors. During her six years on the board, the co-op negotiated agreements to build two large solar arrays, rebuilt a hydro plant and built a biomass plant. It went from 3 percent renewable energy to 87 percent on sunny days, she said. The solar fields were built in partnership with private companies. Baldwin retired to Sonoma in 2015. She is a docent at Quarryhill Botanical Garden and at Sonoma state parks, and she volunteers with the Sonoma Valley Mentoring Alliance which is an “important part in my life,” she said. Her term expires December 2022. Paul Brophy, 73, is a geologist who has been in the geothermal business for 40 years. He works internationally from his headquarters in Santa Rosa, where he is the president of EGS. Inc., a geothermal consulting company he founded in 1995. EGS stands for environmental and geothermal services. Brophy's professional focus has been assessing geothermal systems during exploration and development, he said. His projects have included work in Central and South Paul broPhy America, the Caribbean, Turkey, Philippines, Indonesia, Mexico, California's Imperial Valley and The Geysers geothermal field. At The Geysers, Brophy's firm managed the geologic planning for more than 35 megawatts of geothermal development drilling and did detailed explorations of surrounding wildcat lands. It also was the lead consultant for the repowering and expansion of the Bottle Rock Power Plant. Nearby, several spa and resort facilities and the City of Calistoga have contracted with EGS, Inc. to help assess and develop private uses of the steam fields. Brophy is a frequently published author. He wrote a recent article for the Geothermal Resources Council's bulletin that explains community choice agencies like Sonoma Clean Power and tells why geothermal is ideally suited to supply them. He is president of the Davis-based council and also is on the board of the International Geothermal Association based in Bochum, Germany. Brophy has masters degrees in geophysics and in mining and exploration geology from the University of Leeds in the United Kingdom and the University of North Queensland in Australia. His term ends in December 2019. Joel Chaban, 74, a third-generation San Franciscan, has been an activist most of his life … that is, since 1964 when he was injured in a Chevrolet Corvair accident on his way to Guerneville, a car featured the next year in Unsafe At Any Speed by Ralph Nadar, as a witness to apartheid in South Africa on an exchange program, and since he realized decades ago the perils of carbon emissions. A resident of Gualala, where he and his wife built a home in 2001, Chaban retired two years ago from two careers, first in food service and then in software development. With friends and investors, he founded eight restaurants in San JoEl Chaban Francisco’s financial district and others in Beverly Hills, Kentfield and Sausalito. He and his wife started and sold a food service trade magazine. He designed software for the food service industry, wrote the textbook Practical Food Service Spreadsheets, branched out to design accounting systems for businesses and spent 20 years developing related network and web applications, for which he has several copyrights.

In Gualala, he has fought against development and for clean power. With the Friends of Gualala River he worked for years to protect the Gualala River watershed from logging and vineyards. He is secretary of the Redwood Coast Land Conservancy. He co-founded Power Local Mendonoma to encourage rooftop solar. He has been a key advocate for Sonoma Clean Power in Mendocino. His term expires in December 2022. Joe Como, 64, has had a long career throughout the Bay Area as an engineer and attorney working on energy, health and natural resource issues, most recently with the California Public Utilities Commission in San Francisco. He has lived in Sebastopol for almost 30 years. Before he joined Sonoma Clean Power earlier this year, he was Director of the Office of Ratepayer Advocates, an office within the California Public Utilities Commission that works to get the lowest possible rates for residential utility JoE Como customers "consistent with safe and reliable utility service." Prior to that position, he worked as the chief counsel for the Office of Ratepayer Advocates, as a commissioner's legal advisor for energy and water issues and as an attorney representing the Office of Ratepayer Advocates before the public utilities commission. Earlier Como was deputy city attorney for San Francisco on energy matters, where he helped set rules and utility rates for the city's early efforts to create a community choice aggregation agency. He also worked to replace San Francisco's dirty Potrero Power Plant, closed in 2011, with clean energy. He has been an attorney with legal aid groups including Earthjustice Legal Defense Fund and the Environmental Justice Clinic at Golden Gate School of Law. He co-founded the firm Energy and Environment, Inc. and worked for more than 15 years as an engineer on restoration projects at Superfund sites and helping businesses treat and store hazardous material. His term ends in December 2019. Dick Dowd, 76, has been a prominent builder and developer in Santa Rosa since 1970, after he graduated from Analy High School and then San Jose State University with a masters in civil engineering. He returned home to join his father's construction firm, where he served as president and CEO, and in 1993 he and a partner also formed their own company, Pinnacle Homes, where Dowd was president and CEO. He has retired and lives in Santa Rosa. Over time Dowd developed an interest in sustainable living and incorporated green building practices into his projects. He served on the DiCk DowD board of the Center for Climate Protection in Santa Rosa from 2012 to 2015. Both the North Coast Builders Exchange and the Northern California Engineering Contractors Association have inducted Dowd into their Hall of Fame. He has served on Santa Rosa's Board of Public Utilities since 1994. He has been a director of AltaPacific Bank in Santa Rosa since 2005 and serves as chairman of the directors' loan committee. Beginning in 2011 he was on the county's steering committee that studied ways to develop more reliable and cleaner sources of electricity for Sonoma County, culminating in the formation of Sonoma Clean Power. Dowd is chairman of the community advisory committee. His term ends in December 2021. Anita Fenichel, 59, has a master's degree in energy economics and more than 15 years experience in the electric utility industry. Her special interest is in energy efficiency. "I'm an economist. Energy efficiency makes a lot of economical sense and a lot of environmental sense. There's no reason not to do it," said Fenichel, who has lived in Sebastopol since 2001. Fenichel began her energy career anita FEniChEl as an analyst in Washington , D.C., for ICF International, a Virginia firm that today does consulting work for Sonoma Clean Power and also for the Regional Climate Protection Authority, which is Sonoma County's umbrella agency for tackling global warming. She was a regulatory economist with Maryland's public utilities commission in the early 1990s, during the early push for conservation, when she helped design energy rebate and energy efficiency programs, energy audits, low-income financing and weatherization programs for utilities. She continued this work as a consultant and as program manager at the D.C.-based Alliance To Save Energy, a non-profit that promotes

energy efficiency. In the late 1990s, she was associate director of international programs for the Solar Energy Industries Association, the solar industry's largest trade group, More recently she has been a bond broker and senior vice president for Vining Sparks, a Memphis-based investment advisor to financial institutions. This experience has helped her analyze the business side of Sonoma Clean Power, she said. She views community choice companies like Sonoma Clean Power as valuable competitors to investor-owned utilities. Her term ends in December 2019. Bill Mattinson, 75, is an expert in the field of energy analysis. In 1978 he founded Soldata Energy Consulting, a Santa Rosa firm that helps builders, developers, architects, homeowners, schools and others find comfortable, energy efficient and cost effective building designs that maximize energy performance and sustainability. Although Mattinson retired six years ago, Soldata continues. In the 35 years that Mattinson ran Soldata, he helped develop energy policy in California and nationwide. He bill matinSon sat on various California Energy Commission committees to help develop codes for building energy efficiency that were technically accurate, enforceable and actually saved energy and reduced greenhouse gas emissions. He developed training programs about new window technologies for the building industry and gave seminars throughout California and Texas. Concerned with sustainability and healthy environments, he became a consultant with LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) and Build it Green certifications. He and his firm focused on sustainable affordable housing projects throughout the Bay Area. Mattinson grew up in Southern California where he worked with his dad who was a builder. He also tried alternative lifestyles like "living communally in tipis, converted schoolbuses and sailboats in California, Mexico and Hawaii," he said. He came to Sonoma County to help a friend rehab a farmhouse and enrolled in a solar technician training program at Sonoma State University which led him to get a degree in solar energy at SSU. He lives near Sebastopol and represents Sebastopol on the Regional Climate Protection Authority. His term ends in December 2019. Michael Nicholls, 78, is a Cazadero resident who volunteered for Sonoma Clean Power to assure West Count representation. "I believed it was imperative that someone be appointed to the committee to be a voice for people in west county," he said. Nicholls is a fourth generation San Franciscan who spent his childhood summers on the Russian River. He settled in Cazadero in 2004, as he neared retirement from an executive career in the food miChaEl niChollS industry, and in 2011 Supervisor Efren Carrillo asked him to volunteer to work on the deployment of high-speed affordable internet to rural areas. That led him to think about another utility, PG&E, and he became an early advocate for community choice aggregation. Nicholls has long been interested in power. In the 1980s he advocated for San Francisco to create a municipal power company, which PG&E successfully fought. He supports TURN, a utility watchdog in San Francisco. He was president of a condominium homeowners association on Molokai, Hawaii, when they installed a 55 kilowatt solar system. Soon they'll add another 100 kilowatts. Nicholls is Sonoma County manager of a four-county broadband consortium that is working to improve internet availability for rural Sonoma, Mendocino, Napa and Marin counties. He serves on Sonoma County's Economic Development Board and on the Sonoma Mendocino Economic Development District formed in 2016 to promote joint economic development in the two counties. He is serving his second term as president of the Cazadero Community Services District board. His term ends in December 2019. Denis Quinlan, 59, is a senior in-house corporate attorney who joined engineers and others as they have moved into renewables to build climate solutions in Sonoma County. A native of Chicago, Quinlan had spent five years working on cellular telephone projects for Motorola in Schaumburg, Ill., and a year in Prague, Czech Republic, as general counsel DEniS Quinlan with Cesky Mobile, a wireless telecommunications company, when in 2002 he agreed to join the legal team at Next Level Communications, an iconic Telecom Valley

company in Rohnert Park. When Next Level moved to Massachusetts, Quinlan moved to telecom start-up Calix in Petaluma, where he set up and led their legal department for nine years until they moved management to the South Bay. He and his family did not want to leave their home in Sebastopol, where Quinlan’s interests include refereeing youth soccer, and soon he was recruited to head the legal department at Enphase Energy, a solar inverter manufacturer founded by telecom engineers a few blocks from Calix. “A very compelling, really fascinating company,” said Quinlan, who had just installed Enphase inverters on his roof when the company called. Enphase moved to Fremont earlier this year. The Quinlans have been EverGreen customers since Sonoma Clean Power started, they drive two electric cars charged by their solar panels, and Quinlan said he was eager to volunteer when he learned of an opening on the Community Advisory Committee. His term ends in December 2022. Helen Sizemore, 71, a resident of Mendocino County since 1975, describes herself as “focused on building community capacity and sustainability.” She is a human resources professional who recently retired from her position as Human Resources Programs Administrator with North Coast Opportunities in Ukiah, where she worked for 20 years. North Coast helps low-income and disadvantaged people become self-reliant. It serves Mendocino and Lake counties, plus parts of Humboldt, Sonoma, Del North and Solano counties, employs 250 people and has an annual budget of about $15 million. Sizemore has been certified as a hElEn SizEmorE Professional in Human Resources by the Society for Human Resources Management for 20 years. Prior to joining North Coast, she was an executive assistant with Real Goods Trading Company in Ukiah for six years. In January Sizemore was elected to her third two-year term as a delegate from the 2nd Assembly District to the California Democratic Party and serves on the party’s finance committee. She is also the vice chair of the Mendocino County Democratic Central Committee for the inland area, roughly from Leggett south almost to Cloverdale. A Ukiah resident, she is active with local non-profits such as the Ukiah Players Theater and the Kol Ha’Emek Jewish Community. She’s a graduate of Ohio University with degrees in philosophy and art history. Her term expires December 2022. Ken Wells, 65, spent 16 years, from 1992 until his retirement in 2008, as both executive director of the Sonoma County Waste Management Agency and as the county's Integrated Waste Manager. This meant that he was the top county official in charge of solid waste disposal, with its landfills and transfer stations, of household hazardous waste facilities and of composting. He directed the development of the central disposal site on Mecham Road. In the 1990s he was the county's main renewable energy official, due mainly to his role in installing a gas-to-electricity facility at the central disposal site, which eventually generated 7.5 megawatts of renewable energy, or enough to kEn wEllS power the city of Cotati. He managed energy sales to PG&E and on the open market and, eventually, to the county water agency to help them reach their Carbon Free Water by 2015 goal. Wells managed a team of more than 50 engineers and other specialists with a $50 million annual budget. He prepared ratesetting material to help the county board of supervisors set rates. He wrote and/or enforced hundreds of public contracts, he regulated private refuse companies and he oversaw several multi-million-dollar infrastructure improvements. Before and after his county work, Wells has been a sustainability manager and consultant. "Energy conservation and efficiency in general have been the underlying principles of both my professional work and personal life," he said. He is executive director of the Sonoma County Trails Council and lives in Santa Rosa. His term ends in December 2019. Want to be on the committee? Interested in serving on the Community Advisory Committee? Go to sonomacleanpower.org and sign up for email updates which will let you know about openings on the committee. Or send your information to internal operations manager Stephanie Reynolds at sreynolds@sonomacleanpower.org, and she'll keep it on file until there's an opening. Members are selected by a vote of the agency’s board of directors to represent the interests of ratepayers or for their experience and expertise in a number of areas from finance to power sales. Sonoma Clean Power customers are preferred. The committee meets at least six times a year.

Profile for Sonoma West Publishers

Sonoma Clean Power Special Section - August 2019  

Sonoma Clean Power Special Section - August 2019