When it comes to the subject of clean power, the City of Petaluma still stands where it did last summer — carefully weighing the options.
Last May, the Petaluma City Council voted not to participate in the initial startup of Sonoma Clean Power, a locally controlled electricity provider in Sonoma County.
City officials felt then — and now — that more analysis is needed before committing to PG&E's new competitor, or other similar ventures, such as Marin County's power agency. Both companies partner with PG&E to deliver services, but each determines its own source of energy.
In May 2010, Marin Clean Energy became the North Bay's only county-run power program, paving the way for newer startups such as Sonoma Clean Power.
The City of Novato, for example, saved $9,000 annually by choosing to implement Marin Clean Energy's "light green" option in April 2013, which provides 50 percent power from renewable sources. The company's "deep green" option provides 100 percent renewable energy, but is more costly.
Similarly, Sonoma Clean Power offers two options — the "CleanStart" program provides 33 percent renewable energy, and the "EverGreen" option provides 100 percent local renewable energy.
Marin Clean Energy now serves approximately 125,000 customers in Marin County and, more recently, the City of Richmond. Mayor David Glass said Marin Clean Energy would be worth exploring as another option for Petaluma.
"If Marin is ready, capable and able to expand before Sonoma Clean Power is able to ramp up their potential number of hookups, the environment could be — as well as our ratepayers — the net winner," Glass said.
Scott Duiven, senior planner for the city, said in an email that the city council has asked the staff to prepare an analysis of the costs, benefits and risks associated with joining Sonoma Clean Power. However, Duiven expects that the review won't be conducted until this fall, since the cities that have not joined Sonoma Clean Power — Rohnert Park, Cloverdale and Petaluma — will not have an opportunity to begin service until January 2015.
Cities currently signed up for Sonoma Clean Power — Cotati, Santa Rosa, Sebastopol, Sonoma and Windsor — will start receiving service in May. This will include mainly commercial, government and nonprofit customers, along with about 6,000 residential customers. Petaluma officials plan to look at the data collected from those cities, so it can make an educated decision about whether or not to join.
"We have pushed back this review to make sure that any analyses conducted are based on the most current information at the time the issue is revisited and a decision needs to be made," Duiven wrote.
Regardless of the city's future decision, Glass said these new ventures create healthy competition within the clean energy market.
"There's a great deal of benefit coming from these entities existing, because I think they're the friction that is forcing PG&E to a new model," Glass said. "PG&E will offer a 100 percent clean portfolio for those who wish to go that route."
(Contact Allison Jarrell at firstname.lastname@example.org)