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Beating a Dirty Game 

Sonoma Clean Power: The power of choice

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The most recent Bohemian article about Sonoma Clean Power (SCP) focuses largely on the four top energy service providers (ESPs) competing for SCP's contract. The story implies that the power mix of the chosen ESP will be the power mix of SCP, but this is not the case.

As an analogy, when you shop at a store, you don't buy a portion of everything available in the ratio in stock; you buy what you want. Decision-making about the power mix of SCP is in the hands of its future board, which ideally will include every eligible Sonoma County city. Sonoma Clean Power will launch with a mix of 33 percent renewable energy and will include no coal or nuclear power.

Any community choice energy program emerging today needs to contract with experienced energy players, and—news flash—there are no angels in this game. These are the players with the experience and heft needed for SCP to succeed. Fossil and nuclear sources are part of today's energy-generation reality. All of these ESPs, however, have a keen interest in expanding their enterprises in the renewable energy arena, and are eager to do so in the California market. The key is that SCP will be a local decision-making entity with the power to transition from fossil and nuclear toward energy efficiency and localized solar, wind and other sustainable energy sources.

The relationship with these ESPs is inherently limited; in fact, the contract in question is only for three years. The ESP will not "run" SCP. The Sonoma Clean Power Authority board will run SCP.

The contract with the ESP is not all that SCP will be doing. Sonoma Clean Power will be taking on energy-efficiency projects that are unrelated to the ESPs, and will also be engaging in policies and programs separate from the ESP contract that aim to develop local energy resources. Over time, dependency on the ESPs for remote power, be it renewable or not, will diminish as Sonoma County produces more of its power cleanly and locally.

Woody Hastings is the renewable energy implementation manager for the Climate Protection Campaign. The Climate Protection Campaign first introduced the idea of Sonoma Clean Power in a white paper in 2005. Contact Woody at woody@climateprotection.org.

Open Mic is a weekly feature in the 'Bohemian.' We welcome your contribution. To have your topical essay of 350 words considered for publication, write openmic@bohemian.com.

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