Sonoma Clean Power debate: Can electricity be both green and cheap?

Electricity from Sonoma County's fledgling public power agency can be cheap or green, and there may be conflict over the choice, Sebastopol Mayor Michael Kyes said.

"Green costs more," said Kyes, who will be seated later this month on the governing board of Sonoma Clean Power, the local agency that aims to displace PG&E as the area's leading energy provider.

Sebastopol, which voted this week to join the new power agency, has one goal: reducing greenhouse gas emissions to "save a melting planet," Kyes said.

The emphasis should be on reducing power's carbon footprint, not cutting its cost, Kyes said, asserting that the objectives are not necessarily compatible.

But Geof Syphers, interim CEO of Sonoma Clean Power, said the agency aims to deliver power that is both cleaner and cheaper than PG&E.

"It absolutely can be," he said.

Still, there might be some tug of war over which concept prevails.

Ann Hancock, executive director of the Climate Protection Campaign, a key power agency supporter, said there is "some inherent conflict" between price and eco-friendliness.

Fossil fuels such as coal and natural gas produce cheaper power than renewables because the "true costs" — including the release of gases that contribute to global warming — go unpaid, she said.

The power agency, which intends to begin supplying electricity in January<NO1><NO>, has said first-year bills will range from $1.73 less to $1.02 more per month for a 2,000-square-foot single family home, based on preliminary projections.

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