(This is the first in a series on the proposed Sonoma Clean Power.)

You may have heard about a new local program called community choice aggregation or Sonoma Clean Power. Sonoma Clean Power is a program being developed by the Sonoma County Water Agency to purchase electricity for Sonoma County customers.

This program has multiple benefits and risks, is complex and not well understood by Sonoma County residents and businesses.  In order to help the North Bay Business Journal readers understand the various aspects of Sonoma Clean Power, the Journal is partnering with the Sonoma County Water Agency to publish a series of articles discussing the various aspects of this effort. This article is the first in a series of 10 and will give background on the program and lay the groundwork for future informational pieces.

Sonoma Clean Power (SCP) is the working name for a program called community choice aggregation (CCA), established by law in 2002 through Assembly Bill 117.This law gives counties and cities the ability to purchase directly the electricity that will be used by their constituents. SCP will be a hybrid of the two most common power delivery frameworks, traditional investor owned utilities and municipal utilities.  SCP would form an Authority which would partner with the local utility to continue to deliver the power purchased by SCP.  Transmission, distribution, customer service and billing remain the same, delivered through the existing utility (PG&E).  Customers within the service area have the choice to opt out of participating in SCP and continue to receive their power generation services through the existing utility.

The initial investigation of this program began in March of 2011 when the Sonoma County Water Agency Board of Directors directed the Water Agency to look into the option of community choice aggregation and conduct a feasibility study.

On Oct. 13, 2011 the feasibility study was completed and presented to the Board of Directors. During this time a review by Sonoma County’s legal counsel verified that a community choice aggregation program would not pose a risk to the general fund budget.  SCP would be governed by a Joint Powers Authority which would be responsible for any liabilities of the program. This insulates the general funds of the county and any other participants.

On April 10, 2012, the Water Agency’s Board of Directors reviewed the program’s progress and directed the Water Agency to continue taking steps towards the creation of Sonoma Clean Power including the preparation of an Implementation Plan (business plan) and the formation of a Joint Powers Authority to govern the program.

In June of 2012, the Water Agency launched a monthly newsletter to provide a regular stream of information regarding the community choice aggregation effort to the public and interested parties. Each monthly issue announces upcoming public meetings, program progress updates and information on community choice aggregation efforts in other cities and counties around the country. To sign up for the monthly newsletter log online to scwa.ca.gov/cca.

In July a draft Joint Powers Agreement was circulated to city managers of Santa Rosa, Sonoma, Sebastopol, Cotati, Windsor, Rohnert Park, Cloverdale and Petaluma for their review and comment. Shortly after, prospective power suppliers were informally interviewed to gain knowledge about the state of the current power markets. In October a draft implementation plan was received which will ultimately function as the business plan outlining financials and operations.

To learn more about Sonoma Clean Power and get updates on the progress of this program visit the program’s website at scwa.ca.gov/cca....

Amy Christopherson Bolten is the Public Information Officer for the Sonoma County Water Agency. She can be reached at amy.bolten@scwa.ca.gov or 707-547-1918.