Sonoma Clean Power, utilities face battle over energy costs

May 14, 2017

Some important passages from this article include quotes from Matthew Freedman and Severin Borenstein:

Freedman - “I think everyone who’s watching this thinks that there is going to be very rapid growth in the coming years,” said Matthew Freedman, an attorney in San Francisco with the Utility Reform Network, a ratepayer advocacy group known as TURN. Some utilities, he said, have predicted that half their customers could switch to the public programs within a decade.

Freedman, then Borenstein – Some, including Freedman, suggested that in recent years a significant amount of renewable power has simply been shifted to the public programs from other electric utilities, which then make up any shortfall with fossil fuels, changing little. “There is definitely some of that that has gone on,” said Severin Borenstein, a UC Berkeley business professor and energy researcher. “The question is how much.”

Freedman - Freedman noted that some public programs have used a strategy of buying inexpensive certificates known as “renewable energy credits” and linking them with electricity from fossil fuels to essentially declare, “Voila, I have green power.”

Freedman - He also pointed to Sonoma Clean Power’s reliance on existing hydroelectric power. According to the UCLA study, hydro amounts to 44 percent of Sonoma’s portfolio, with another 36 percent from solar, wind and other “renewables.” That hydro power, mostly from the Pacific Northwest, would be generated anyway, Freedman said, and bringing it down to California doesn’t result in new sources of renewable power or in a reduction of greenhouse gases. “The CCAs need to be much better” at creating more renewable power, Freedman said, especially now when they can take advantage of historically low financing costs and federal tax incentives that are expected to diminish over time.

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