Clean-power agencies relieved at legislation change

SANTA ROSA -- A key element of legislation that advocates of Sonoma Clean Power and similar alternative-energy agencies insist would threaten their ability to form and operate could be switched off, thanks to state Senate action.

The requirement for electricity customers to opt-in to a community-choice aggregation (CCA) agency was dropped from Assembly Bill 2145 during a meeting of the state Senate Energy, Utilities and Communications Committee.

"We protected Sonoma County's right to participate in Sonoma Clean Power," Geof Syphers, agency CEO, said about that vote. The county's CCA started service May 1 and serves all areas but Healdsburg, which has its own utility, and opt-outers Petaluma, Rohnert Park and Cloverdale.

AB 2145 author Steven Bradford, D-Gardena, submitted an amendment to the Senate committee that would effectively leave the current system in place, which automatically signs up power customers in the CCA area unless they opt-out after enough notification.

"As we all know, compromise is a part of the legislative process," Assemblymember Bradford said in a statement. "I am happy to move the bill forward with the accepted amendments. The bill still contains strong transparency measures that will help customers make the right choice for them and their families."

He said that the discussion the bill has fostered is valuable.

"Too many people are in the dark about what CCAs are and what they do," he said.

An initial vote at 6 p.m. Monday failed to get enough yes votes, so Chairman Alex Padilla held the vote open until late into the evening, according to Sonoma Clean Power. The final vote was 6-3, with one senator absent and one abstention.

Still remaining to be resolved are amendments that would allow CCAs to expand to up to as many as three adjacent counties and would grandfather local governments that decide to join a CCA this year. The state's first CCA, MCE Clean Energy in Marin County, has expanded service to Richmond and could include unincorporated Napa County.

The next stop for those amendments is set to be the Senate Environmental Quality Committee. The bill would need to go back to the Assembly for approval before heading to the governor's desk. Action on the bill is expected to happen in the next two to three months, according to Sonoma Clean Power.

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