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The governing board that will oversee the first operating year of a renewable energy-focused public power agency in Sonoma County took shape last Thursday, as the agency's joint powers authority grew to include the cities that recently voted to allow the agency to offer power to its residents and businesses.

Representatives for the cities of Santa Rosa, Sonoma, Sebastopol and Cotati joined what is now an eight-member board for Sonoma Clean Power. Along with Windsor and the county's unincorporated areas, those areas account for more than 75 percent of ratepayers in Sonoma County.

Representing Santa Rosa are city council members Robin Swinth and Jake Ours. Mayor Mark Landman represents Cotati, with Mayor Michael Kyes representing Sebastopol and Councilman Steve Barbose representing Sonoma.

The group joins Windsor's representative, Vice Mayor Bruce Okrepkie, and the remaining representatives for the combined unincorporated areas, county supervisors Shirlee Zane and Susan Gorin. The authority's board had originally included only the five-member board of supervisors when service was approved to the county's unincorporated areas, and has expanded as planned as other participants have joined.

One change, however, is Santa Rosa's demand for equal representation to the county, regardless of the number of participants. The city council requested that change along with a number of other conditions for its participation, all of which were approved by the joint powers authority.

The municipalities of Petaluma, Cloverdale and Rohnert Park voted earlier this year to not join the agency and thus do not have a seat on the board. If any of those cities choose to join next year, the seating of a representative would reduce the representatives for the county and the city of Santa Rosa from two to one.

The joint powers authority governs the various activities of Sonoma Clean Power. In addition to regular voting, members can also call for a vote weighted by the number of customers in their service areas.

The board also adopted changes that would prevent Santa Rosa and the county from overpowering the smaller cities in a weighted vote, as each account for approximately 35 percent of the county's ratepayers.

The seating of the participating municipalities is the latest step in the launch of Sonoma Clean Power, which is expected to begin serving an initial group of around 10,000 customers early next year.

The limited launch will help keep administrative costs low, but will still account for approximately 20 percent of the county's power usage by focusing on commercial customers, according to a report to the board by Geof Syphers, interim Sonoma Clean Power chief executive officer.

A number of steps remain before the agency begins serving customers, including the final contract arrangement with wholesale power providers. A final picture of rates during the agency's first year is expected between October and December, according to the report.

Planners provided a narrow estimate of those rates in April, which are expected to be between 3.1 percent less per month and a half-percent more than Pacific Gas & Electric Co. rates for a business consuming 15,000 kilowatt-hours per month. Residential customers likely would pay between 1.8 percent less and 1.1 percent more than PG&E rates.

Sonoma Clean Power will also enlist members for its ratepayer and business advisory committees over the next few months, along with hiring a handful of initial staff members. The agency is expected to have around 15 employees at full implementation, and is currently looking for office space in downtown Santa Rosa.

The California Public Utilities Commission will also need to sign off on Sonoma Clean Power's final implementation plan, and the agency will need to enter an operating agreement with PG&E.

Planners estimate that the agency will have $11.6 million in revenue during its first year of operation, with $11.4 million in expenses. Santa Rosa's First Community Bank has offered to provide a $2.5 million loan for startup financing, along with a $7.5 million line of credit to fund continuing operations during the startup phase.

Operating under the community choice aggregation structure, Sonoma Clean Power would deliver electricity to its customers over the existing grid largely maintained by PG&E. It would be the second such agency in California, after Marin Clean Energy.

While a CCA need not focus on renewable energy, both Marin Clean Energy and Sonoma Clean Power have made it a focus of their service. Sonoma Clean Power will launch with a minimum 33 percent renewable energy in its portfolio, with plans to grow to a minimum 50 percent in subsequent years. Potential customers will have the option to remain with PG&E if desired, but will be enrolled automatically if no action is taken.