s
s
Sections
Sections
Subscribe
You've read 5 of 15 free articles this month.
Get unlimited access to PressDemocrat.com, the eEdition and our mobile app starting at 99 cents per month.
Already a subscriber?
You've read 10 of 15 free articles this month.
Get unlimited access to PressDemocrat.com, the eEdition and our mobile app starting at 99 cents per month.
Already a subscriber?
You've read all of your free articles this month.
Get unlimited access to PressDemocrat.com, the eEdition and our mobile app starting at 99 cents per month.
Already a subscriber?
We've got a special deal for readers like you.
Get unlimited access to PressDemocrat.com, the eEdition and our mobile app starting 99 cents per month and support local journalism.
Already a subscriber?
Thanks for reading! Why not subscribe?
Get unlimited access to PressDemocrat.com, the eEdition and our mobile app starting 99 cents per month and support local journalism.
Already a subscriber?
Want to keep reading? Subscribe today!
Ooops! You're out of free articles. Starting at just 99 cents per month, you can keep reading all of our products and support local journalism.
Already a subscriber?

Santa Rosa has hired two consultants to help City Council members understand the possible pitfalls of joining the Sonoma Clean Power Authority.

Their advice could prove pivotal for a council that is struggling to get its questions about the public power agency answered before a scheduled July 9 vote.

"I can't even begin to guess how the council as a whole will go on this," Mayor Scott Bartley said. "I go up and down, in and out, and any which way you can on this."

The two consultants, one an attorney the other an energy engineer, have been answering questions from the council's three-member subcommittee over the past two weeks. Both will be on hand to answer questions from the full council at this week's study session, which starts at 1 p.m. Tuesday.

"They've helped us identify issues that we think are critical," Bartley said.

The consultant with the most experience with issues surrounding public power authorities is Michael Dean, an attorney and founder of the Sacramento law firm Meyers Nave, which specializes in advising public agencies in California.

Dean, who has been practicing law since 1976, is general counsel to the Northern California Power Agency. The Roseville-based public power agency provides electricity to several agencies in Northern and Central California, including Healdsburg and Ukiah, the Port of Oakland and BART.

In 2008, Dean helped negotiate a 20-year, $500 million power purchase agreement between the agency and Western GeoPower for "100 percent clean, green and renewable, electricity" from its geothermal power plants at The Geysers.

Dean will answer council members' questions about liability and any other legal concerns they may have, City Attorney Caroline Fowler said.

Any reports or opinions Dean puts in writing to the council will remain confidential, Fowler said.

The second consultant is John Rosenblum, a Sebastopol-based engineering consultant specializing in industrial water and energy efficiency projects.

He has 23 years of experience and has previously done work for the city, mostly recently to help install more efficient pumps at the wastewater treatment plant on Llano Road.

He also has experience analyzing how water demand will impact greenhouse gas emissions and targets, authoring a report on the subject for the Sonoma County Water Agency and Climate Protection Campaign in 2007.

He'll also be on hand to answer technical questions for the council Tuesday.

Windsor and Cotati have both voted to join Sonoma County in the launch of the agency, which seeks to displace Pacific Gas & Electric Co. as the area's main electricity supplier. The two cities and the unincorporated areas of the county account for about 40 percent of PG&E meters in Sonoma County.

Of the eight cities being solicited by the county, Cloverdale, Rohnert Park and Petaluma have chosen not to join for now. Sebastopol is set to vote Tuesday, followed by Santa Rosa on July 9, and Sonoma July 15.

Santa Rosa council members have said they need advice from experts unaffiliated with Sonoma Clean Power to help them get unbiased answers to their questions and insights to help them ask better ones.

"We need — I, the subcommittee, and the whole council — need and want to understand what we are getting into," Bartley said. "Then, you either accept the risk or you don't."

A 140-page report published on the city's website Saturday suggests Tuesday's meeting is likely to revolve around how much clout the city will wield within Sonoma Clean Power relative to the county, as well as financial liabilities and costs it may take on if it joins the agency.

In Saturday's report, Rosenblum raises the issue of Sonoma Clean Power's reliance on renewable energy credits to achieve its goal of having 33 percent of electricity come from renewable sources. Such credits have been labeled by critics as "greenwashing," as they allow power users to label their energy as renewable even though they are drawing standard power from the grid. Rosenblum warns that such credits' prices, currently reasonable, could rise sharply because they are traded on the open market and vulnerable to speculation.

The participation of Sonoma County's largest city, where nearly 170,000 residents and businesses consume 35 percent of the electricity sold by Pacific Gas & Electric, is considered vital to the fledgling agency's ability to spread costs over a larger base and negotiate the best possible rates from potential power suppliers.

There is intense pressure for council members to join the program, but they have so far resisted the power politics at play, winning an extension of a June 30 decision deadline and pushing for a variety of changes to language in the joint powers agreement that would govern the new agency.

But at this late date, it's not clear to Bartley just how much say the city has over a joint powers agreement for an agency it has yet to join.

"We're not going to reinvent Sonoma Clean Power at this point, and that shouldn't be our goal," Bartley said.

But other council members appear to be holding out for additional revisions to the joint powers authority, essentially Sonoma Clean Power's constitution.

Councilwoman Julie Combs said she wants a pledge of no purchases of nuclear power in the document, as well as clear language obligating the agency to build clean power projects that would produce local jobs.

"Don't claim it if it's not there in writing," Combs said.

She also wants to see greater ratepayer protections and living wages paid on future energy projects, she said. Sonoma Clean Power officials have said the time to craft many such changes is after the cities sign on.

You can reach Staff Writer Kevin McCallum at 521-5207 or kevin.mccallum@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @citybeater.