Sonoma County board votes to create power agency

The Sonoma County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday approved a major piece of its plan to become a power supplier to homes and businesses, creating an administrative agency to oversee its proposed program.

The unanimous decision does not launch the public power venture, which would compete with PG&E, the region's main utility. That final step could come next year, pending the return of favorable rates from power suppliers.

But the board action, which came before a packed, largely supportive audience, is the most significant step forward for the effort after 20 months of studies, surveys and public meetings.

Supporters, including environmental groups, union officials and some business groups, see the effort as a key way to boost investment in renewable power, create jobs through the construction of local energy projects, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

"This will be a tremendous stimulus to our local businesses and our local economy," said Dick Dowd, a Santa Rosa developer who serves on the board of the Climate Protection Campaign, an advocacy group pushing for the public power program.

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