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Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Sonoma County Energy Policy and Community Choice

Board Approves Energy Policy 
and Community Choice 
Aggregation Program Feasibility Study

The Sonoma County Water Agency Board of Directors today approved funding for the development of a feasibility study to develop a Community Choice Aggregation (CCA) program in Sonoma County. The action came at the same time the Board approved and authorized the Water Agency to implement its new Energy Policy.

In 2002, the California Legislature enacted legislation permitting the creation of CCA programs. Under the legislation, a city, county, or Joint Powers Agency (two or more cities and counties) may implement a CCA program. Once formed, residents within the CCA service area can opt out of the CCA and continue to receive power from the utility (e.g., PG&E). Those that do not opt out will have their power supplied by the CCA entity. The utility continues to provide and bill CCA customers for power transmission and other services (e.g., meter reading, billing, etc.). Only the electricity generation portion of electricity service is provided by the CCA entity. A similar program, Marin Clean Energy, is operating in Marin County.

The Water Agency’s CCA feasibility study will examine whether such a program provides Sonoma County residents with renewable, locally-produced power at a reasonable and stable cost. The study will be coordinated by a steering committee composed of the Water Agency, the Regional Climate Protection Authority, the Agricultural Preservation and Open Space District, the County’s Auditor and General Services departments, city representatives and community stakeholders.

“The financial impact and economics involved in implementing such a program could be significant. The ability to invest power revenues locally while creating green jobs for County residents is attractive and this study will be looking at these opportunities,” said Water Agency Board Chair and Supervisor Efren Carrillo.

Implementing a CCA in Sonoma County could have multiple benefits, including increased local control over power generation and rates, a substantial reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, local economic benefits, and the opportunity to increase local energy efficiency and conservation efforts, as well as potential integration of carbon sequestration programs.

“The County has been a trail blazer through numerous sustainable energy initiatives in the past, and thanks to the Water Agency’s hard work, this feasibility study lays the foundation for a bright future. This Energy Policy will allow us to reinvest into our local economy while doing the right thing for the environment,” said Water Agency Director and Supervisor Mike McGuire.

The Water Agency has a unique interest in energy matters, arising from three factors. First, the Water Agency is a large consumer of electrical energy. Second, the Water Agency is a producer of electricity. Third, the Water Agency has been a leader in climate change mitigation activities, and is pursuing and has pursued numerous renewable energy projects.

The Water Agency currently operates 4.4 MW of renewable solar and hydropower facilities, and has up to 22.4 MW in renewable energy projects in development. The County of Sonoma operates two solar systems totaling 820 kW and a 1.4 MW fuel cell. An additional 5-6 MW is generated through capture of methane gas at the County’s landfill.

In 2005 the Water Agency’s Board authorized the General Manager/Chief Engineer to finalize an Energy Policy. The 2005 Policy established guidelines for Water Agency employees in the purchase of materials, design and construction of projects, and the operation and maintenance of Water Agency facilities. Since 2005 there have been many changes and new challenges. The new Energy Policy provides the Water Agency with direction in two general areas:

1. Carbon Free Water – For several years, the Water Agency has been pursuing a goal of achieving a net carbon neutral power supply for all its operations. This program has been titled Carbon Free Water by 2015 and includes the following programs:

a. Develop Renewable Energy Sources
– The Water Agency continues to develop renewable energy projects to supply offset its energy demands rather than meeting these demands with conventional carbon based sources.

b. Water Conservation
– The Water Agency is a regional leader in water conservation. Because water conservation reduces the amount of water the Water Agency must pump and deliver, the conservation of water has a direct impact on its energy use. The Water Agency will continue to promote water conservation.

c.  System Efficiency – The Water Agency continues to reduce its energy use by implementing efficiencies in its water transmission system.

2.  Projects of Regional Benefit – The new policy directs the Water Agency to seek opportunities for broader regional benefits in terms of energy efficiency, greenhouse gas reduction, and development of local renewable energy sources. Under the new policy, the Water Agency will increase its efforts to seek collaborations and partnerships with other agencies and stakeholders in developing regional community initiatives.

The Agency will implement the Energy Policy in coordination with Strategy Seven of its 2010 Water Supply Strategies Action Plan, under which the Water Agency will take advantage of the synergies between water and energy.

To learn more about the Water Agency’s Energy Policy and CCA feasibility study, visit

Sonoma County Water Agency provides water supply, flood protection and sanitation services for portions of Sonoma and Marin counties. Visit us on the Web at

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