SANTA ROSA -- The Sonoma County Board of Supervisors, acting as the Sonoma County Water Agency board of directors, today approved  funding for the development of a feasibility study to develop a local community choice aggregation, or CCA, program.

Up to $150,000 was approved for the feasibility study, and up to $100,000 for Rusty Klassen of Marshall-based Local Power to develop the water agency's renewable energy programs. The action came at the same time the board approved  and authorized the water agency to implement its new Energy Policy.

“The financial impact and economics involved in implementing such a program could be significant. The ability to invest power revenues locally while creating green jobs for County residents is attractive and this study will be looking at these opportunities,” said water agency board chairman and Supervisor Efren Carrillo.

In 2002, the California Legislature enacted legislation permitting the creation of CCA programs.  Under the legislation, a city, county or joint powers agency (two or more cities and counties) may implement a CCA program.

Once formed, residents within the CCA service area can opt out of the CCA and continue to receive power from the utility (e.g., PG&E).  Those that do not opt out will have their power supplied by the CCA entity. The utility continues to provide and bill CCA customers for power transmission and other services (e.g., meter reading, billing, etc.).  Only the electricity generation portion of electricity service is provided by the CCA entity.

A similar program, Marin Clean Energy, is operating in Marin County.

The feasibility study will examine whether such a program provides Sonoma County residents with renewable, locally-produced power at a reasonable and stable cost.

The study will be coordinated by a steering committee composed of the Water Agency, the Regional Climate Protection Authority, the Agricultural Preservation and Open Space District, the County’s Auditor and General Services departments, city representatives and community stakeholders.

Implementing a CCA in Sonoma County could have multiple benefits, including increased local control over power generation and rates, a substantial reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, local economic benefits, and the opportunity to increase local energy efficiency and conservation efforts, as well as potential integration of carbon sequestration programs.

"The county has been a trail blazer through numerous sustainable energy initiatives in the past, and thanks to the Water Agency’s hard work, this feasibility study lays the foundation for a bright future. This Energy Policy will allow us to reinvest into our local economy while doing the right thing for the environment,” said Supervisor Mike McGuire.

The water agency has a unique interest in energy matters, arising from three factors.  First, the agency is a large consumer of electrical energy.  Second, it is a producer of electricity.  Third, the agency has been a leader in climate change mitigation activities and is pursuing and has pursued numerous renewable energy projects.

The water agency currently operates 4.4 megawatts of renewable solar and hydropower facilities, and has up to 22.4 megawatts in renewable energy projects in development. The county of Sonoma operates two solar systems totaling 820 kilowatts and a 1.4-megawatt fuel cell. An additional 5 to 6 megawatts is generated through capture and combustion of methane gas at the county’s landfill.

In 2005 the water agency’s board authorized the general manager and chief engineer to finalize an Energy Policy.  That policy established guidelines for water agency employees in the purchase of materials, design and construction of projects, and the operation and maintenance of Water Agency facilities. Since 2005 there have been many changes and new challenges. The new Energy Policy provides the Water Agency with direction in two general areas:

Carbon-free water. For several years, the water agency has been pursuing a goal of achieving a net carbon-neutral power supply for all its operations. This program has been titled Carbon Free Water by 2015 and includes the following programs:

Develop renewable energy sources. The agency continues to develop renewable energy projects to supply offset its energy demands rather than meeting these demands with conventional carbon-based sources.

Existing hydroelectricity. The agency operates a 2.64-megawatt hydroelectric facility at Warm Springs Dam. It began operating in 1984. This power goes to the agency by agreement with the Power and Water Resources Pooling Authority.

Existing solar photovoltaic. The water agency owns and operates three solar PV facilities with a combined peak capacity of 2 megawatts. The systems were installed by May 2007 at the Agency's administrative offices and at the Sonoma Valley County Sanitation District and Airport/Larkfield/Wikiup Sanitation Zone treatment plants.

Farms 2 Fuel program. Chicken manure will be used as feed stock for a biodigestion facility that could generate up to 5.6 megawatts of renewable electricity. Other organic feed stocks such as waste from food processing facilities could also be used. A 1.4-megawatt fuel cell, developed in partnership with ORR Biostar LLC, would convert a portion of the project's biogas into electricity for agency use. The remaining biogas would be sold to PG&E. Agency staff is negotiating a power purchase agreement, or PPA, and lease agreement for water agency board consideration in mid-2011. The project is expected to be completed in February 2012.

Sonoma Green Energy. The program is a partnership between Sonoma Compost and Phoenix Energy to develop a 1 megawatt biomass gasification system at the county landfill.

An existing power generation plant exists on the landfill which uses landfill gas. This power is sold to the Power and Water

Resource Pooling Authority (PWRPA) of which the Agency is a member. The new project would generate power at the same location and could use the existing PPA as an instrument to sell the power directly to the Agency. An amendment to the existing PP A would come before the Board for approval.

Wind turbines. A 10-kilowatt wind turbine demonstration system will be placed at the Airport/Larkfield/Wikiup Sanitation Zone treatment plant under the Renewable Energy Secure Communities project. This turbine would be financed through a third party at no cost to the agency, assuming receipt of California Energy Commission rebates. Estimated completion is April 2011.

Water conservation. The agency is a regional leader in water conservation. Because water conservation reduces the amount of water the agency must pump and deliver, the conservation of water has a direct impact on its energy use. The Water Agency will continue to promote water conservation.

System efficiency. The water agency continues to reduce its energy use by implementing efficiencies in its water transmission system.

Projects of regional benefit. The new policy directs the agency to seek opportunities for broader regional benefits in terms of energy efficiency, greenhouse gas reduction and development of local renewable energy sources. Under the new policy, the agency will increase its efforts to seek collaborations and partnerships with other agencies and stakeholders in developing regional community initiatives.

The water agency will implement the Energy Policy in coordination with Strategy Seven of its 2010 Water Supply Strategies Action Plan. Under that plan, the agency will take advantage of the synergies between water and energy.

To learn more about the agency’s Energy Policy and CCA feasibility study, visit www.scwa.ca.gov/carbon-free-water/.