Sonoma Clean Power allies defeat challenge in Sacramento

Sonoma County's new public power supplier and its allies beat back a challenge in Sacramento this week that would have made it more difficult and costly to enroll new customers, altering a bill that posed a major threat to Sonoma Clean Power and other agencies like it forming across the state.

"It's a huge victory," said Geof Syphers, CEO of Sonoma Clean Power.

A provision that would have required electricity customers to individually sign up for service from a public power agency, known as a community-choice aggregator, or CCA, was removed from Assembly Bill 2145 on Monday during a hearing of the state Senate Energy, Utilities and Communications Committee.

As a result, households and businesses within the jurisdiction of Sonoma Clean Power and other agencies like it will continue to be automatically enrolled, requiring customers to opt out if they wish to remain with their present electricity supplier.

"We protected Sonoma County's right to participate in Sonoma Clean Power," Syphers said Wednesday. "Where it stands now, the default service stays with community choice. We're very happy with that."

Syphers said the defeat of the opt-in provision in AB 2145 would make it easier for Sonoma Clean Power to add customers and for new CCAs across the state to form. Sonoma Clean Power is courting Petaluma, Rohnert Park and Cloverdale, which have not joined the program. The agency serves customers in Santa Rosa, Sonoma, Cotati, Windsor, Sebastopol and the unincorporated areas of Sonoma County.

The bill by Assemblyman Steven Bradford, D-Gardena, is supported by PG&E and a union representing electrical workers. Hunter Stern, representative for the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 1245, said that removing the opt-in provision from the bill was part of a compromise. The Senate energy committee also added language that would confine a CCA's boundaries to three contiguous counties. The changes, he said, will not hinder new public power agencies from launching but put limits on their growth.

"It was never our intent to keep CCAs from forming," he said. "We were trying to find the right combination of language to allow new CCAs to start but not allow them to expand."

The bill, which passed the Assembly last month, now heads to the Senate Environmental Quality Committee.

Environmental groups celebrated the amended language.

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