The head of Sonoma County's startup public power agency Tuesday shared a stage for the first time with an official from PG&E as the electricity providers vie for customers ahead of Sonoma Clean Power's May launch.
In a town hall forum in front of a full Congregation Shomrei Torah in Santa Rosa, Geof Syphers, Sonoma Clean Power CEO, hammered the agency's selling points of energy that is cleaner and cheaper than the competition.
"We're not replacing PG&E," he said. "What we do is we buy from cleaner sources of power and then we fill PG&E's wires that they still maintain, and they help get that power to you. So what we're doing is choosing cleaner sources."
Tom Bottorff, PG&E senior vice president, countered that the company has decades of experience reliably providing power to the northern two-thirds of California.
"Geof mentioned that he's the new agency, well I'm the old corporation," he said. "We've been around for a long time ... We will continue to provide all the services that we do today."
For at least the first wave of Sonoma Clean Power customers starting in May, the savings are expected to equal a 2 to 3 percent reduction on the overall electrical bill for businesses and homes. Most of the initial accounts will be commercial customers, with the bulk of residential customers joining next year and in 2016.
"We're not bettering PG&E by a lot, but it's a competitive rate," Syphers said.
The first wave of customers includes 14,000 commercial customers and 6,000 randomly selected residential accounts in the participating jurisdictions, now limited to the cities of Santa Rosa, Sebastopol, Cotati, Sonoma, Windsor and the unincorporated county.
The agency will provide power to an additional 60,000 residential customers in each of the next two years. Altogether, the venture aims to serve about 220,000 accounts, or about 80 percent of PG&E's electricity customers in the county.
Sonoma Clean Power customers will have the option to opt out and return to PG&E for no charge up to two months after joining. After that, customers can opt out for a $5 fee.