Sonoma County Supervisors have indicated they are up to the challenge of becoming only the second county in the state to get in the business of supplying power to local residents (Marin is the only county that currently does). Under state law, local governments can buy energy on the wholesale market to sell to residents and businesses and the county is currently considering the tradeoffs to this option. For instance, residents could have to pay more over a 20-year period. Reportedly if the county provides power then residents would have to pay $4 to $10 more per month. And while one scenario suggests the rates would continue to rise until 2017, afterwards the cost for customers would drop greatly to as low as $1 dollar more per month in 2032. Supervisors discussed the findings of a report regarding the switch on Tuesday. Supporters of the change posit that it could also create new jobs and the county would be able to purchase greener, renewable power. The Press Democrat reports:
“Chairman Efren Carrillo, seeking perhaps to put the current board's stamp on the issue, has called the power effort ‘an imperative’ for the county. ‘What this report tells me is the program is feasible and that it's time to take the next step,’ he said Monday in an interview. The report evaluated rate implications for customers under four different scenarios, each with a higher percentage of power in renewables, including wind, solar, geothermal and biomass generation. The two scenarios with the most aggressive renewable push — resulting in more than double the state's mandated 33 percent standard by 2020 — saw the largest short-term rate hikes with lower comparable rates in future years.”
The exact costs of the switch are not yet clear and officials acknowledged that further study would be necessary. While there appears to be broad support, concerns have still been raised about the economic impact and the effect on taxpayers. A partnership with Marin County has been put on the table as an option to help reduce costs.