Growing public utility Sonoma Clean Power ousts PG&E from county

Dive Brief:

  • Pacific Gas & Electric is no longer the default electricity provider to any communities in Sonoma County, Calif., after three more municipalities began taking service from a new clean energy agency this week.
  • Sonoma Clean Power, a publicly-owned utility created by local governments in 2012, is now the default supplier to all but one community in the county north of San Francisco. After beginning service in 2014 to just 23,000 customers, the provider now serves almost a half million individuals, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.
  • The only community in the county not procuring power through Sonoma Clean Power is Healdsburg, which runs its own municipal utility.

Dive Insight:

Sonoma Clean Power has banked on being three things: Local, green, and cheaper than PG&E. So far, that strategy appears to be working.

The San Francisco Chronicle reports the county-run clean energy procurement agency is now the default provider in all of Sonoma's communities, save Healdsburg which runs its own utility. 

“It’s hard to argue with a good deal,” Geof Syphers, CEO of Sonoma Clean Power, told the newspaper. “Most people, when they hear the story about cleaner and cheaper, they’re pretty happy.”

On June 1, Cloverdale, Petaluma and Rohnert Park all began receiving power from Sonomoa Clean Power. While customers can opt to remain with PG&E, most do not. Fewer than 10% have reverted back to the incumbent provider, the CEO said.

The power agency says it is about 5% cheaper than PG&E and says it could provide even lower-cost power if it wanted, but it maintains a higher mix of renewable power. Earlier this year SCP contracted with Pristine Sun to build up to 12.5 MW of new solar power in Sonoma County, by floating solar panels on ponds. The project will be the largest floating solar project in the United States, and the second largest in the world, the agency believes.

So far, communities have not had to choose between greener power and lower prices. But Syphers told Utility Dive last year that there are consumers willing to pay more for cleaner energy. About 65% of people say they would pay a little more for cleaner power, though when asked separately roughly 80% are concerned about rates. 

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Filed Under: Generation Solar & Renewables Corporate News
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