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Sonoma enters power business against PG&E

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POSTED May 2, 2014 8:36 p.m.

SANTA ROSA  (AP) — A second public agency began providing electricity to residents under California’s community choice aggregation program.

Officials on Thursday launched Sonoma Clean Power, a program run by Sonoma County and participating cities that is an alternative to Pacific Gas & Electric Co. and promises to be cheaper and rely more on renewable energy than PG&E, the Press Democrat of Santa Rosa reported.

The program was created under the state’s community choice aggregation program, which allows local governments to purchase energy on the wholesale market.

Marin Clean Energy — a similar service run by Marin County and cities there — was the state’s first active community choice aggregation program. It began service in 2010 and now serves all cities in Marin County and the city of Richmond.

Sonoma Clean Power is buying electricity under deals with two contractors, the Press Democrat reported. It will rely on PG&E to transmit the energy and handle billing and maintenance.

Sonoma Clean Power CEO Geof Syphers said the utility’s customers can expect a 4 to 5 percent savings in electricity charges, or a total of $6 million in savings, in the first year. Sonoma Clean Power also says it is getting 33 percent of its power from renewable sources, a higher percentage than PG&E.

“This is the single largest step Sonoma County has taken to address climate change and we’re doing it at a cost of negative $6 million,” Syphers said.

The program is currently serving about 23,000 customers. The goal is to serve 220,000 accounts, or about 80 percent of PG&E’s electricity customers in the county, by 2016, the Press Democrat reported. Customers can opt out of Sonoma Clean Power and stay with PG&E if they want. They can also upgrade to a premium service that relies only on clean energy.

San Francisco has pursued a similar public power program, but the effort has stalled.

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