Sonoma Clean Power launch approaching soon

Officials overseeing Sonoma County's startup public power agency on Thursday discussed the agency's rapidly approaching launch, including a series of steps geared toward securing an initial power supply and the simpler task of setting up office space.

After more than two years of planning and preliminary development, Sonoma Clean Power is entering its busiest phase yet.

"It really is crunch time at the end of October, November and December," said Sonoma County Supervisor Susan Gorin, the power agency chairwoman.

Next month, the public will get its first look at the retail rates staff will use to guide power supply negotiations.

At the same time, the agency plans to unveil draft terms and conditions, including the general power supply mix and greenhouse gas emission targets, that four competing energy companies will use to bid for the initial contract.

With the county and five cities currently participating, and assuming a 20 percent opt-out rate by customers who prefer to stay with PG&E, the proposed three-year deal could be worth $130 million in annual revenue by 2017.

If final prices are favorable, the lowest-cost bidder could be selected by staff in late October or November, setting in motion at least two months of work to establish residential and commercial rates and notify future customers.

Sonoma Clean Power officials said Thursday that the schedule of upcoming decisions was "aggressive."

The venture, billed as a greener, competitively priced alternative to PG&E, expects to begin supplying electricity to its first wave of mostly commercial customers next May.

By early next month, the agency plans to seat two appointed advisory committees to guide the rate-setting process and business operations. Applications for the two bodies have been out for more than a month and a total of 29 candidates have applied.

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