Year-Old Public Agency Supplants PG&E
On June 1, Sonoma Clean Power initiated service in three new cities, making it the new default provider in Sonoma County and replacing PG&E as the top provider in the area, the Press Democrat reports. After beginning service in 2014 to just 23,000 customers, the provider now serves roughly 226,000 residential and commercial customers. The only community in the county area not getting its power through Sonoma Clean Power is Healdsburg, which runs its own municipal utility (making it ineligible).
The public provider has found support not just from the public but from the business community, with such notable clients as Jackson Family Wines, Oliver’s Markets, and locally based technology firms. It now supplies electricity to roughly 90 percent of the residential and commercial customers in the area.
Greener and More Affordable
In part, Sonoma Clean Power’s results come from the price advantage it has held over PG&E for the past year, no mean feat for the one-year-old organization. Its customers currently save 6 to 9 percent compared to those who have remained with the utility, while also receiving a cleaner generating mix.
Sonoma has inked electricity contracts with a stable of renewable and conventional power suppliers, and the agency’s standard service consists of 33 percent green energy sources. The agency has signed long-term contracts with a variety of suppliers to diversify its contract supply portfolio and mitigate risks of energy price fluctuations. The company has contracts for solar, geothermal, and wind power, in addition to conventional generation.
(Sonoma notes that it could provide cheaper power if it forsook renewable energy sources in favor of more conventional varieties. So far, customers have not had to make the choice between greener and more expensive power. A recent Utility Dive article noted that 65 percent of survey respondents said they would pay slightly higher prices for cleaner power, though when asked separately, roughly 80 percent also expressed concern about rates.
Will The Trend Continue?
Is the growth of this renewable energy utility a fluke, or the beginning of a green power renaissance? Time will tell whether this success continues to grow, but it is notable that even PG&E’s own survey data supports the cost savings claimed by Sonoma.