Michael Laybourn: There seems to be a some confusion about Sonoma Clean Power’s offer to include Mendocino County…


From Michael Laybourn

There seems to be a some confusion about Sonoma Clean Power’s offer to include Mendocino County. Maybe this will clear things up a bit: A CCA or “Community Choice Energy” gives customers a choice in their energy provider. With Community Choice Energy, cities and counties contract with a licensed energy service provider to purchase greener energy in bulk and charge less in some cases. help local business to build renewable energy generating facilities, and implement energy efficiency programs. This efficient public/private partnership makes it possible to get the greenest energy at the best rates. This is how we should be able to purchase energy. It is local control. From a local company that doesn’t need to have a huge profit to make shareholders happy and overpay it’s executives.

But PG&E doesn’t like competition. We saw that when they spent 45 million dollars to change the California constitution to eliminate the competition to stop Marin County and other Community Choice Energy projects. And lost, because they were wrong.

More PG&E facts from the San Jose Mercury News: “At 6:11:12 pm PDT on September 9, 2010, a huge explosion occurred in the Crestmoor residential neighborhood of San Bruno, near Skyline Boulevard and San Bruno Avenue. This caused a fire, which quickly engulfed nearby houses. The explosion and resulting fire leveled 35 houses and damaged many more. Three of the damaged houses, deemed uninhabitable, were torn down in December, bringing the total to 38. As of September 29, 2010, the death toll was eight people.

In January 13, 2012, an independent audit from the State of California issued a report stating that PG&E had illegally diverted over $100 million from a fund used for safety operations, and instead used it for executive compensation and bonuses. In August, 2016, PG&E was convicted of six felony counts for crimes the company committed before and after the 2010 San Bruno explosion, which killed those eight people and destroyed the residential area.”
Oddly, PG&E bestowed pay raises on several executives during that year in which the company was convicted of crimes related to the fatal San Bruno explosion and amid spikes in monthly bills for customers, according to a regulatory filing Tuesday. I guess the fines will mean the energy rates will have to go up to pay for this.

“Geisha Williams, who was president of the utility’s electricity operations during the company’s 2016 conviction, harvested $4.2 million in total direct compensation, PG&E disclosed in an official filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission. That was 11.8 percent higher than 2015. Last month, Williams became PG&E’s new CEO. Nickolas Stavropoulos, the president of the utility’s gas operations in 2016, captured $3.9 million in total pay, a jump of 9.2 percent from the year before, the SEC documents shows.”

Is this the company that should have a monopoly on our energy?

I became interested in The Community Aggregate (Choice) idea and called up the bill’s author, Paul Fenn. He gave me the history of the CCA bill, written in 2001. Community Choice: Better than a greedy corporation.

I followed the Marin Supervisors when they pushed their Marin Clean Energy concept through. I visited them with Supervisor Hamburg and learned more. Thanks to some very bright people, Marin County residents can now purchase greener energy at somewhat lower rates and 100% green is available. Marin has now backed local county businesses that create energy to work towards a County produced energy.

Marin Clean Energy has committed nearly $516 million to 195 megawatts of new California local renewable energy projects. Those include a 10.5-megawatt solar project in Richmond, a 4-megawatt landfill waste-to-energy project in Novato, a 1.5-megawatt solar project in Novato’s Cooley Quarry, a 1-megawatt solar project at San Rafael Airport and a 1-megawatt project at the Buck Institute for Research on Aging in Novato.
PG&E does not like this.

Sonoma County saw the success of Marin Clean Energy and created their own Community Choice Energy – Sonoma Clean Power and yes, it works too. Lower rates, cleaner energy and local control.

Shawn Marshall was a main force for Marin Clean Energy and who spoke to many in Mendocino County recently, brought here by Supervisor Hamburg. As she has said; “The accomplishments of cheaper cleaner energy proves MCE is a sound business model.” She is correct. I watched it happen from the start. Both in Marin and Sonoma County and It is successful.

I don’t think Mendocino County has the money to create its own public power agency. Sonoma County has offered to let Mendocino County energy users a chance to buy into this setup. Supervisor Hamburg brought it to a vote by the Mendocino County Supes and I wrote a letter to each Supervisor. It passed unanimously.

I am happy to go with Sonoma County Clean Power. After seeing these non profit companies make this work, this should be a no brainer.


Thanks Michael Laybourne for your clarity. It is often hard for us naive citizens to cut through the pearly phrases of utility dons and suck out a few swallows of facts. Thanks also to Dan Hamburg for his efforts.

I’m concerned about how communication & maintenance would be handled during a power outage….which occurs in my area with some regularity. If there is some problem I want to be able to speak directly with a human, not some outsourced phone call center! At this point I can walk in & speak with P.G.E. at their office in Ft. Bragg, from 9am to 5pm, 5 days a week.

    Hi Katherine: From what I have read via the materials and the Sonoma Clean Power site, PG&E will still be responsible for the infrastructure through which you will receive your power. Your bill will also still come from PG&E. The only thing that changes by moving to SCP is where your electricity is being generated, and how its generation impacts the environment. In some ways it’s similar to many of the cell service providers – they often share the same towers (the infrastructure) but they all have their own plans that consumers can choose from. So, when you have a problem with your power or your bill, your process will not change – you should still be able to walk in and speak with your favorite PG&E person in Fort Bragg. Cheers!

Maek Evan Slafkes April 26, 2017 at 1:45 pm

Companies that build green power generators will only do it if there is a profit to be made. Unless I’m mistaken, PG&E buys green power at a price that allows for this to happen. Also, all power is combined together and distributed together, there is no other way of doing it. So, how does the purchase of 100% green power by a consumer actually result in increased generation of green power? And what does another layer of people who are paid to manage this green power save money for the consumer? I’m an advocate of increased use of non-polluting power and especially hydrogen-powered vehicles. I just don’t understand how the purchase of 100% green power over the grid will have any impact whatsoever in the creation and distribution of green power.

Michael Laybourn May 1, 2017 at 4:36 pm

Here are some answers to your questions:
1. PG&E has to make a profit for its share holders which a nonprofit does not. PG&E, as you saw in my article, pays millions in salaries that neither Marin or Sonoma comes close to paying. Therefore, PG&E buys cheaper power to pay these costs.
2. All power is not combined. Some companies focus on green power to sell.
3. If all of us bought green power, then that’s where the power generation will focus, instead of bulldozing down mountains to get to coal. Green power would be where the money is.
Generally it is easier to talk to more local businesses the huge corporations. I have found this to be true for both Marin and Sonoma’s clean power.

To Katherine’s question, PG&E will still provide maintenance and even if you take buy energy from another provider, you will still be a transmission and distribution customer of PG&E. So you can still walk into your same Ft. Bragg office for any issues about outages, etc. The majority of most people’s bills is actually for the transmission and distribution of energy, so you’ll remain a valued PG&E customer in either case.