FAQ

General Questions

What is Sonoma Clean Power?

Sonoma Clean Power (SCP) is the new, locally-run electricity provider in Sonoma County. We provide you with the option of using cleaner power at a competitive price from sources like solar, wind, geothermal and hydropower. SCP is a not-for-profit agency, independently run by Sonoma County and the participating cities of Sonoma, Santa Rosa, Cotati, Windsor, Sebastopol and Cloverdale.

Does SCP replace PG&E?

Sonoma Clean Power supplies cleaner electricity to homes and businesses. PG&E continues to do the billing, turns on and off power when you move, maintains the power lines and resolves outages.

Why am I automatically opted in to Sonoma Clean Power?

Historically, PG&E has been the default power provider to customers in Northern California and customers were automatically opted in to PG&E because there was no alternative service to choose from. Now there is a choice.

Because of the environmental benefits offered by Community Choice programs such as Sonoma Clean Power, our state legislators passed California’s Community Choice Aggregation law in 2002, making Community Choice programs the default service, resulting in competition and better options for customers.

When can I participate?

All electric customers in unincorporated Sonoma County, Sonoma, Santa Rosa, Cotati, Windsor and Sebastopol will be eligible for service by December 2014. Cloverdale and any other city that joins SCP before the end of January 2015 will be eligible for service in the summer of 2015. You will be notified at least 60 days before service begins, and will receive a comparison of SCP’s rates to PG&E’s rates.

Can I Opt Out?

Yes. If you don’t want to participate in Sonoma Clean Power, you can opt out of the program and continue to receive power from PG&E. To opt out, be sure you have received an enrollment letter in the mail. If you haven’t yet received an enrollment notice, then we are not allowed to process an opt-out request from you. You may opt out online or by calling our local Call Center at 1 (855) 202-2139.

Can I return to SCP after I opt out?

Customers who opt out of SCP before or within the first 60 days after the start of service with SCP can return to SCP at any time. Customers who opt out after the first 60 days of service with SCP will be prohibited by PG&E from returning to SCP for one year.

Why does Sonoma Clean Power become the default provider?

Historically, PG&E has been the default power provider to customers in Northern California and customers were automatically opted in to PG&E because there was no alternative service to choose from. Now there is a choice.

To provide California communities with choice and control over their energy supply, our state legislators passed California’s Community Choice Aggregation law in 2002. That landmark legislation made Community Choice programs like SCP the default energy supply service, resulting in competition and better options for customers.

Can I Enroll Early?

Customers signing up for EverGreen, SCP’s 100% local renewable option, can sign up early online or by calling toll free at 1 (855) 202-2139. This service requires a 12 month commitment, and is priced to reflect the actual cost of 100% local renewable power, meaning that it is about 20% higher in cost than the CleanStart option.

Will I still receive CARE or Medical Baseline help with my bills?

Yes, if you currently receive CARE or Medical Baseline rates from PG&E, you will continue to receive these with SCP. You do not need to reapply.

When there’s a power outage, will PG&E fix our lines?

Absolutely. PG&E will continue to provide the same level of service to Sonoma Clean Power customers as they provide to their other customers.

What is PG&E's view of Sonoma Clean Power?

PG&E supports your power to choose a provider, and provides a full comparison of pricing to verify SCP’s lower rates. Visit PGE.com and search for “community choice.”

Why am I receiving telemarketing calls?

We do not engage in telemarketing. If you receive an unsolicited call from someone claiming to represent Sonoma Clean Power, please report the phone number to the Federal Trade Commission at www.FTCcomplaintassistant.gov.

Is Sonoma Clean Power really cleaner than PG&E?

SCP’s electricity has a higher renewable content than PG&E’s electricity and 30% lower greenhouse gas emissions. CleanStart is 70% carbon free — 33% from sources considered renewable under California’s regulations, like wind, solar and geothermal, and 37% from large hydropower facilities. The remaining power comes from “systems power,” which is produced with natural gas.

EverGreen is 100% local renewable power, currently consisting of geothermal power but planned to expand to other local resources such as solar. The product isn’t for everyone because it carries a cost premium of about 20% more than CleanStart and a 12 month commitment. But for those who want to help pioneer a clean energy economy, you can start service early–even before you receive an enrollment notice.

What is the story on Unbundled Renewable Energy Credits or “RECs”?

RECs consist of the renewable attributes of renewable energy stripped off of the underlying electricity. In other words, the “green” part of the renewable electricity is acquired, but the underlying remaining electricity is sold as non-renewable energy to a separate third party.

California law strongly favors renewable energy that keeps the renewable attributes and underlying electricity bundled, such that the renewable attributes and the electricity are sold together. Consistent with this law and the amount of RECs PG&E is allowed to claim as renewable energy, SCP limits the use of RECs to approximately 3% of all of SCP’s energy. For a more detailed discussion on RECs and why SCP choses to forego their usage for anything except for the 3% indicated under California law, please reference our Resource Plan.

Since we share the “grid,” how do I know my electrons are cleaner?

It turns out that all electricity is clean. It’s the generating sources that can pollute. Whether electricity was made from natural gas or solar, by the time the power is in your wires, it is all exactly the same. There is no need (or way) to track which electricity you use. Instead, we track which generators put power into the grid for you, because that is where the impacts are.

When we contract for power from the Geysers, for example, they run a geothermal unit and it operates on our behalf. If, instead, we contracted for power from a fossil fuel plant, then that plant would increase its output – and its emissions and other pollution– to account for our needs.

With Sonoma Clean Power, we get to choose how our power is created, and some sources, like the Geysers and other renewable power, are much cleaner than others.

Background

Why was Sonoma Clean Power formed?

Sonoma Clean Power was formed in response to our community’s desire for local control of our electric energy supply. Local residents and businesses wanted lower rates and cleaner power.

Have other communities done this before?

Yes. The County of Marin, cities within Marin County and the City of Richmond in Contra Costa County are part of Marin Clean Energy, which has been operational since 2010. Illinois, Ohio, Massachusetts, New Jersey and Rhode Island also have community power programs, and many California cities and counties are forming or are considering forming a community choice program.

How will Sonoma Clean Power benefit us?

Choice and competition. In the past, there was only one electricity provider. SCP offers you a choice of providers and creates competition that encourages innovation and improved pricing.

More renewables. SCP’s mix of renewable energy sources for the default CleanStart service is 1 ½ times that of PG&E’s, with 30% lower greenhouse gas emissions. The optional EverGreen service is 100% local AND renewable – the first service of its kind in California!

Local control. In the past, electric rates were set without any input from Sonoma County
customers. SCP gives us local control and accountability.

New markets for renewable energy. After only a few months of operation, SCP has already contracted to build 30 MW of solar power in California and launched a feed in tariff that incentivizes local, renewable generation. But this is just the beginning – SCP continues the push for better, cleaner energy. For a deeper understanding of SCP’s plans, see our Resource Plan SonomaCleanPower.org.

Local reinvestment. In the past, $180 million left Sonoma County each year to pay for electric generation. In our first year of operation, SCP will save our customers approximately $6 million dollars, creating an immediate economic benefit for our community. Over time, SCP will also buy increasing amounts of power from local sources, helping support local jobs. We’ve already got a great start with a 10MW purchase of clean geothermal power from the Geysers and the launch of our feed in tariff (aka ProFit).

Local energy efficiency programs. Today, about $12 million is collected from Sonoma County every year to use for energy efficiency programs, but we’ve had very little say about what programs are implemented—or where in the state those funds are spent. SCP can apply to use some of that money to develop new programs and incentives better targeted to our needs.

Why haven’t we been able to do this before?

In 2002, Assembly Bill 117 was enacted to allow cities and counties to purchase power on behalf of their residents and businesses as a way of promoting competition in power generation. In 2010, the Sonoma County Water Agency began exploring the formation of a community power program forming a Steering Committee in early 2011. The committee was composed of city council members, city managers, businesses, activists and others. Two years of research resulted in the publication of a study showing that a community power program was feasible.

Rates

What does it cost?

SCP has negotiated competitively priced contracts so that our current rates are lower than PG&E’s current rates. As of summer 2014, SCP customers enjoy a 4% to 5% reduction on the total electric bill. Detailed price information for each rate is available on our website for commercial and residential accounts.

Will billing change?

You will continue to get just one bill from PG&E. A few lines on the bill change since the
charges for power generation will go to Sonoma Clean Power instead of PG&E.

When will I see the change to my PG&E statement now that I am an SCP customer?

You will notice a change on your PG&E statement on the first bill you receive following your first month of service from Sonoma Clean Power. The line item will reflect “Sonoma Clean Power (SCP) Electric Generation Charges”. For more information, please visit the billing page of our website.

Renewables

Are CleanStart and EverGreen really greener than PG&E?

SCP’s power has a higher renewable content than PG&E’s. CleanStart is 70% carbon free — 33% from sources considered renewable under California’s regulations, like wind, solar and geothermal, and 37% from large hydropower facilities. The remaining power comes from “systems power,” which is largely natural gas.

EverGreen is 100% local renewable power, starting with geothermal power. The product isn’t for everyone because it carries a cost premium of about 20% and a 12 month commitment. But for those who want to help pioneer a clean energy economy, you can start service early–even before you receive an enrollment notice. Learn more.

Does this mean our hillsides will turn into solar farms?

Definitely not. There are enough existing structures and parking lots to provide a large percentage of our needs. Sonoma Clean Power also purchases geothermal power from the Geysers facility, a technology that makes power by pumping treated wastewater from Sonoma County into the ground where hot rocks heat the water to make steam and run turbines. Ground-mounted solar systems may also be constructed, but they will be subject to all of the normal environmental compliance reviews.

What is the story on Renewable Energy Credits (RECs)?

We started with a small amount of unbundled renewable energy credits as a way to get more renewable energy at a low cost, but we are already transitioning away from them. “RECs” are a way of paying a remote renewable energy producer to support renewable power, and are allowed for use in California as a way of using more renewable energy.  However, RECs are not effective at supporting our local economy and have a limited benefit for supporting the construction of new renewable resources. For this reason, Sonoma Clean Power will work to invest in local resources over time while keeping our default service competitively priced.

Because of the limited value of RECs, we decided to ignore them completely in our greenhouse gas claims. So the environmental benefits our customers create by using CleanStart or EverGreen are solid.

Doesn't all of our power come from the Geysers?

Since the Geysers geothermal facility makes a lot of power and is close by, it seems reasonable to assume that all of our power comes from that clean resource. But it turns out that just living near a clean power plant isn’t enough.

Power plants only operate when they have a contract to receive payment, and those who pay for power get the credit for its environmental benefits.  If it worked any other way, then moving next door to someone with solar on their roof would help the environment, but of course it doesn’t. The family that paid for solar to be installed on their roof gets all of the credit for that power.

Since we share a grid, how do I know my electrons are cleaner?

It turns out all electricity is clean. It’s the generating sources that can pollute.

Whether electricity was made from natural gas or solar, by the time the power is in your wires, it is all exactly the same. There is no need (or way) to track which electricity you use. Instead, we track which generators put power into the grid for you, because that is where the impacts are.

When we contract for power from the Geysers, for example, they turn on a geothermal unit and it operates on our behalf.  If, instead, we contracted for power from a fossil fuel plant in the Central Valley, then that plant would increase its output – and its emissions – to account for our needs.  

With Sonoma Clean Power, we get to choose is how our power is created, and some sources, like the Geysers, are much cleaner than others.

What are the sources of SCP’s Energy?

Sonoma Clean Power is committed to increasing renewable energy, supporting the local economy and also providing competitively priced service. That’s quite a few goals, and no one power source can deliver all of them, which is why we use a combination of sources. You can view a breakdown of our current mix on our Power Sources page.

What if I want to sell electricity to SCP?

Sonoma Clean Power is pleased to offer a Feed-In Tariff for new renewable energy projects. Learn more about our ProFIT program.

Enrolling

What’s the enrollment process?

If you live or work in a participating area, you don’t need to do anything to become a Sonoma Clean Power customer. At least two months before you are eligible for service, you will begin receiving notices with rate information and a comparison of your options. If you want to opt out, the notices describe how to do that, too. You will get a total of four notices.

Most commercial customers started receiving service in May 2014 and all remaining customers in the County unincorporated areas, Windsor, Sebastopol, Cotati, Sonoma and Santa Rosa will be eligible to pick their provider starting in October 2014. You will know when you’re eligible because you will receive notices in the mail.

Cloverdale residents and businesses will be eligible to choose a power provider starting in April 2015.

My city did not vote to join Sonoma Clean Power—can I still participate?

Unfortunately, no. If your city has not voted to join Sonoma Clean Power, you cannot participate. However, the cities of Petaluma and Rohnert Park have an opportunity to vote to participate, which would make it possible for residents and business to receive the benefits of Sonoma Clean Power in the summer of 2015.

Will there be penalties for joining SCP late, or for going back to PG&E?

We waive the fee for opting out if you do it in the first 60 days after service starts.  After that, we charge $5 for switching to PG&E for residential customers and $25 for all other customers.

Can I return to PG&E after the first 60 days of service with SCP?

Yes. You can request to opt out of SCP at any time. However, customers who opt out after the first 60 days of service with SCP will be prohibited by PG&E from returning to SCP for one year. In addition, PG&E provides two options for customers who wish to return to PG&E after the first 60 days of service:

  1. A customer may request to return to PG&E by providing 6 months advance notice. The customer will continue to receive energy from SCP for 6 months after which time they will return to PG&E. PG&E will apply their standard rates upon the customer’s return.
  2. A customer may request to return to PG&E immediately, but will be subject to PG&E’s Transitional Bundled Commodity Cost (TBCC) rate program for 6 months instead of PG&E’s traditional rates. PG&E’s TBCC rate is transitional and varies from month to month.

Customers should contact PG&E for more information about TBCC and their options for returning to PG&E after the first 60 days of service with SCP.

SCP will charge customers who opt out after the first 60 days of service a small one-time administrative opt out fee, which is currently set at $5 for residential customers and $25 for commercial customers.

Is there a fee for opting out of SCP?

There is no charge for opting out of SCP before or within the first 60 days of service. After the first 60 days of service SCP will charge a one-time $5 (residential) or $25 (commercial) fee.

Governance

How is Sonoma Clean Power run?

Sonoma Clean Power is run by a CEO and a small staff that will gradually grow to about 15 people in three years. It is governed by the Board of Directors of the Sonoma Clean Power Authority, a joint powers authority of the County and the cities that have voted to join. The Board is advised by a public Ratepayer Advisory Committee and a Business Operations Committee.

Won't this create another expensive government agency?

Nope.  Sonoma Clean Power is different.  We are entirely self-funded by revenues we receive from customers. None of our expenses are paid by taxes, and our revenues cannot be diverted to pay for non-SCP uses. We have a minimal staff and our benefit costs are low. We keep our prices competitive by negotiating for all of our customers as a group and by the fact that we don’t have to charge extra to generate a profit.