Sonoma County's two largest cities appeared headed down divergent energy paths Tuesday, with Santa Rosa vowing to move swiftly toward a decision on whether to join the Sonoma Clean Power Authority the day after Petaluma delayed a decision until at least September.
Santa Rosa City Council members expressed both strong support and deep reservations about the proposal, but all agreed to try hard to make up their minds one way or another by the impending June 30 deadline or shortly thereafter.
"I love the concept. I want it to work, but I've got to make sure it's right for our city, and I'm not there yet," Councilman Jake Ours said.
The council decided to convene its three-member subcommittee in coming weeks to get answers to myriad questions it has about the plan's governance, rates, green energy mix, and impact on greenhouse gas emissions. It proposed another full public hearing on the issue in late June.
Mayor Scott Bartley said the city would "move as fast as we can move," but warned that pressure on it to act quickly was like "pushing on string, and that doesn't work."
The call for quick action follows a unanimous move Monday by the Petaluma City Council to further study the proposal, effectively putting off any decision until after the county's June 30 deadline and possibly until next year. The county's second-largest city joins Cloverdale, its smallest, which also decided to sit on the sidelines for now.
"It may be that there's a better path for Petaluma," Mayor David Glass said Tuesday.
So far, Windsor is the only city to formally join the power agency. Rohnert Park and Sebastopol could join in a second round of hearings next month. Cotati's first presentation in the current series is today, while Sonoma's council takes up the issue June 3.
The creation of a public power agency is intended to supplant PG&E as the county's primary source of electricity and offer a greener energy portfolio, with sources including solar, wind, geothermal, biomass and small hydroelectric projects.
The agency intends to start with power that is 33 percent from renewable sources, a greater proportion than PG&E's 20 percent.
County officials estimate that in 2014, Sonoma Clean Power rates for residential customers would be 1.8 percent lower to 1percent higher than PG&E's, and for commercial customers 3 percent lower to 0.5 percent higher.
It was difficult to read the leanings of many Santa Rosa council members Tuesday. All said they wanted the agency to work, but they also voiced a litany of questions they wanted answered before they could fully support it.
But at least two council members said that if Santa Rosa didn't participate, it wouldn't have a seat at the table of the Joint Powers Authority and therefore couldn't influence the policies that might affect it if it joined later.
"A lot of these decisions have been made without us, and rather than letting more of them be made without us, I'd like to see us hop on that train before it goes by us too much further," Erin Carlstrom said to a round of applause from a chamber packed mostly with supporters.