Sonoma Clean Power, the local program to buy and produce electricity, may be one of the most exciting opportunities for Sonoma County businesses in years. We often talk about voting with our wallets and supporting local businesses, well this is our chance to walk our talk!

Besides creating opportunities to convert underutilized spaces into power producing assets, businesses will be able reduce their energy expenses. Early estimates indicate that the energy costs for businesses will be slightly reduced with the new Community Choice Aggregation (CCA) program. In addition, new jobs will be created, as green projects are developed countywide.

There is much information now available to the public that CCAs have been successfully implemented throughout the nation, state and even next door, in Marin County. The benefits of the proposed Sonoma Clean Power are too big to ignore and too important to reject due to fear of change, especially since CCAs have been proven to be effective in other states. In addition to the obvious benefits of local control and reduction of greenhouse gases in our community is the enormous investment in infrastructure and green-energy projects that will result from Sonoma Clean Power.

The county is responsible for providing a guaranty on $2.5 million of the total $10 million in start-up costs. The JPA (joint powers agreement) for Sonoma Clean Power (SCP) establishes a firewall between the program and the county/participating cities, protecting our municipalities from financial risks.

Under the working deal, PG&E would continue to manage the billing, servicing and electricity delivery for Sonoma Clean Power. This is a tried and true model. For a local example, you can Google “Marin Clean Energy”.

Countywide businesses and government are working together to invest in renewable energy resources, most visible will be the planned solar field on county-owned land near the Charles M. Schulz--Sonoma County Airport. Plus, Sonoma Clean Power will provide additional support and incentives to reward producers of renewable energy, which will spur more private energy development jobs and assist in the agency’s goal of producing and procuring as much power as possible from local producers.

Finally, by investing in our local energy resources and infrastructure, Sonoma County is keeping its money local, at every step of the economic cycle. New energy resources will be built, locally, creating jobs, locally. Your energy bill will be reinvested locally to benefit everyone.

About $12 million is collected from local ratepayers annually for use by PG&E for efficiency programs, yet ratepayers have no say over what programs are implemented. A CCA has the ability to request a portion of those funds to administer new programs that are better suited to our county. Today, estimated profits of more than $10 million from energy sales are taken out of the county.  Those funds could be better used within Sonoma County on services and projects that benefit ratepayers and for future rate reductions.

CCAs have an impressive track record of providing affordable energy in other states including Ohio, Massachusetts and Illinois, where over 300 municipalities participate. At the end of the day, energy consumers in Sonoma County can also choose to reduce our carbon footprint and keep our local economy growing by keeping dollars local....

Debbie Meekins is president and chief executive officer of First Community Bank, Santa Rosa. The institution is providing a $2.5 million startup loan to Sonoma Clean Power, secured by the county of Sonoma, and has offered the organization a $7.5 million unsecured line of credit for operations.