Advisory committee

COMMUNITY ADVISORY COMMITTEE — Sonoma Clean Power’s Community Advisory Committee at their July 23 meeting at agency headquarters, clockwise from left:  Denis Quinlan, Joel Chaban, Anita Fenichel, Paul Brophy, Dick Dowd, Bill Mattinson, Michael Nicholls, Joe Como; Sonoma Clean Power officials general counsel Jessica Mullan, CEO Geof Syphers, director of internal operations Stephanie Reynolds, chief operating officer Michael Koszalka. Absent were Karen Baldwin, Helen Sizemore, Ken Wells. 

Eleven people serve on Sonoma Clean Power's volunteer Community Advisory Committee, which analyzes operations and issues and advises the agency’s elected board of directors and staff. Listed alphabetically, the advisers are:


Karen Baldwin, 70, is a retired attorney who specialized in tax-exempt finance, a type of business financing that structures bonds so the interest they pay the investors who buy them is exempt from tax. Her projects included financing new renewable energy projects in Contra Costa County and Kauai, Hawaii.

In the 1980s, while working for a law firm in Colorado, she was bond counsel for an ultimately unsuccessful Contra Costa County project to build a waste-to-energy plant. Her role was to ensure that the project was structured so that its bonds were tax exempt.

Karen moved to the north shore of the island of Kauai in 2005, where she was in-house counsel for the island’s electrical provider, Kauai Island Utility Cooperative. At that time residents in Kauai were paying almost four times as much per kilowatt hour for their electricity as U.S. mainland ratepayers.

In 2009 Karen was elected to the co-op board of directors.  During her six years on the board, the co-op negotiated agreements to build two large solar arrays, rebuilt a hydro plant and built a biomass plant. It went from 3 percent renewable energy to 87 percent on sunny days, she said. The solar fields were built in partnership with private companies.

Baldwin retired to Sonoma in 2015. She is a docent at Quarryhill Botanical Garden and at Sonoma state parks, and she volunteers with the Sonoma Valley Mentoring Alliance which is an “important part in my life,” she said.

Her term expires December 2022.


Paul Brophy, 73,   is a geologist who has been in the geothermal business for 40 years. He works internationally from his headquarters in Santa Rosa, where he is the president of EGS. Inc., a geothermal consulting company he founded in 1995.

EGS stands for environmental and geothermal services.

Brophy's professional focus has been assessing geothermal systems during exploration and development, he said. His projects have included work in Central and South America, the Caribbean, Turkey, Philippines, Indonesia, Mexico, California's Imperial Valley and The Geysers geothermal field.

At The Geysers, Brophy's firm managed the geologic planning for more than 35 megawatts of geothermal development drilling and did detailed explorations of surrounding wildcat lands. It also was the lead consultant for the repowering and expansion of the Bottle Rock Power Plant.

Nearby, several spa and resort facilities and the City of Calistoga have contracted with EGS, Inc. to help assess and develop private uses of the steam fields.

Brophy is a frequently published author. He wrote a recent article for the Geothermal Resources Council's bulletin that explains community choice agencies like Sonoma Clean Power and tells why geothermal is ideally suited to supply them. He is president of the Davis-based council and also is on the board of the International Geothermal Association based in Bochum, Germany.

Brophy has masters degrees in geophysics and in mining and exploration geology from the University of Leeds in the United Kingdom and the University of North Queensland in Australia.

His term ends in December 2019.


Joel Chaban, 74, a third-generation San Franciscan, has been an activist most of his life … that is, since 1964 when he was injured in a Chevrolet Corvair accident on his way to Guerneville, a car featured the next year in Unsafe At Any Speed by Ralph Nadar, as a witness to apartheid in South Africa on an exchange program, and since he realized decades ago the perils of carbon emissions.

A resident of Gualala, where he and his wife built a home in 2001, Chaban retired two years ago from two careers, first in food service and then in software development.

With friends and investors, he founded eight restaurants in San Francisco’s financial district and others in Beverly Hills, Kentfield and Sausalito. He and his wife started and sold a food service trade magazine.  He designed software for the food service industry, wrote the textbook Practical Food Service Spreadsheets, branched out to design accounting systems for businesses and spent 20 years developing related network and web applications, for which he has several copyrights.

In Gualala, he has fought against development and for clean power.

With the Friends of Gualala River he worked for years to protect the Gualala River watershed from logging and vineyards. He is secretary of the Redwood Coast Land Conservancy. He co-founded Power Local Mendonoma to encourage rooftop solar. He has been a key advocate for Sonoma Clean Power in Mendocino.

His term expires in December 2022.


Joe Como, 64, has had a long career throughout the Bay Area as an engineer and attorney working on energy, health and natural resource issues, most recently with the California Public Utilities Commission in San Francisco. He has lived in Sebastopol for almost 30 years.

Before he joined Sonoma Clean Power earlier this year, he was Director of the Office of Ratepayer Advocates, an office within the California Public Utilities Commission that works to get the lowest possible rates for residential utility customers "consistent with safe and reliable utility service." Prior to that position, he worked as the chief counsel for the Office of Ratepayer Advocates, as a commissioner's legal advisor for energy and water issues and as an attorney representing the Office of Ratepayer Advocates before the public utilities commission.

Earlier Como was deputy city attorney for San Francisco on energy matters, where he helped set rules and utility rates for the city's early efforts to create a community choice aggregation agency. He also worked to replace San Francisco's dirty Potrero Power Plant, closed in 2011, with clean energy. He has been an attorney with legal aid groups including Earthjustice Legal Defense Fund and the Environmental Justice Clinic at Golden Gate School of Law.

He co-founded the firm Energy and Environment, Inc. and worked for more than 15 years as an engineer on restoration projects at Superfund sites and helping businesses treat and store hazardous material.

His term ends in December 2019.


Dick Dowd, 76, has been a prominent builder and developer in Santa Rosa since 1970, after he graduated from Analy High School and then San Jose State University with a masters in civil engineering. He returned home to join his father's construction firm, where he served as president and CEO, and in 1993 he and a partner also formed their own company, Pinnacle Homes, where Dowd was president and CEO.  He has retired and lives in Santa Rosa.

Over time Dowd developed an interest in sustainable living and incorporated green building practices into his projects.  He served on the board of the Center for Climate Protection in Santa Rosa from 2012 to 2015.

Both the North Coast Builders Exchange and the Northern California Engineering Contractors Association have inducted Dowd into their Hall of Fame. He has served on Santa Rosa's Board of Public Utilities since 1994. He has been a director of AltaPacific Bank in Santa Rosa since 2005 and serves as chairman of the directors' loan committee.

Beginning in 2011 he was on the county's steering committee that studied ways to develop more reliable and cleaner sources of electricity for Sonoma County, culminating in the formation of Sonoma Clean Power. Dowd is chairman of the community advisory committee.

His term ends in December 2021.


Anita Fenichel, 59, has a master's degree in energy economics and more than 15 years experience in the electric utility industry. Her special interest is in energy efficiency.

"I'm an economist. Energy efficiency makes a lot of economical sense and a lot of environmental sense. There's no reason not to do it," said Fenichel, who has lived in Sebastopol since 2001.

Fenichel began her energy career as an analyst in Washington, D.C., for ICF International, a Virginia firm that today does consulting work for Sonoma Clean Power and also for the Regional Climate Protection Authority, which is Sonoma County's umbrella agency for tackling global warming.

She was a regulatory economist with Maryland's public utilities commission in the early 1990s, during the early push for conservation, when she helped design energy rebate and energy efficiency programs, energy audits, low-income financing and weatherization programs for utilities. She continued this work as a consultant and as program manager at the D.C.-based Alliance To Save Energy, a non-profit that promotes energy efficiency.

In the late 1990s, she was associate director of international programs for the Solar Energy Industries Association, the solar industry's largest trade group,

More recently she has been a bond broker and senior vice president for Vining Sparks, a Memphis-based investment advisor to financial institutions. This experience has helped her analyze the business side of Sonoma Clean Power, she said.  She views community choice companies like Sonoma Clean Power as valuable competitors to investor-owned utilities.

Her term ends in December 2019.


Bill Mattinson, 75,   is an expert in the field of energy analysis. In 1978 he founded Soldata Energy Consulting, a Santa Rosa firm that helps builders, developers, architects, homeowners, schools and others find comfortable, energy efficient and cost effective building designs that maximize energy performance and sustainability. Although Mattinson retired six years ago, Soldata continues.

In the 35 years that Mattinson ran Soldata, he helped develop energy policy in California and nationwide. He sat on various California Energy Commission committees to help develop codes for building energy efficiency that were technically accurate, enforceable and actually saved energy and reduced greenhouse gas emissions. He developed training programs about new window technologies for the building industry and gave seminars throughout California and Texas.

Concerned with sustainability and healthy environments, he became a consultant with LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) and Build it Green certifications. He and his firm focused on sustainable affordable housing projects throughout the Bay Area.

Mattinson grew up in Southern California where he worked with his dad who was a builder. He also tried alternative lifestyles like "living communally in tipis, converted schoolbuses and sailboats in California, Mexico and Hawaii," he said. He came to Sonoma County to help a friend rehab a farmhouse and enrolled in a solar technician training program at Sonoma State University which led him to get a degree in solar energy at SSU. He lives near Sebastopol and represents Sebastopol on the Regional Climate Protection Authority.

His term ends in December 2019.


Michael Nicholls, 78,  is a Cazadero resident who volunteered for Sonoma Clean Power to assure West County representation.

"I believed it was imperative that someone be appointed to the committee to be a voice for people in west county," he said.

Nicholls is a fourth generation San Franciscan who spent his childhood summers on the Russian River. He settled in Cazadero in 2004, as he neared retirement from an executive career in the food industry, and in 2011 Supervisor Efren Carrillo asked him to volunteer to work on the deployment of high-speed affordable internet to rural areas. That led him to think about another utility, PG&E, and he became an early advocate for community choice aggregation.

Nicholls has long been interested in power. In the 1980s he advocated for San Francisco to create a municipal power company, which PG&E successfully fought.  He supports TURN, a utility watchdog in San Francisco. He was president of a condominium homeowners association on Molokai, Hawaii, when they installed a 55 kilowatt solar system. Soon they'll add another 100 kilowatts.

Nicholls is Sonoma County manager of a four-county broadband consortium that is working to improve internet availability for rural Sonoma, Mendocino, Napa and Marin counties. He serves on Sonoma County's Economic Development Board and on the Sonoma Mendocino Economic Development District formed in 2016 to promote joint economic development in the two counties. He is serving his second term as president of the Cazadero Community Services District board.

His term ends in December 2019.


Denis Quinlan, 59, is a senior in-house corporate attorney who joined engineers and others as they have moved into renewables to build climate solutions in Sonoma County.

A native of Chicago, Quinlan had spent five years working on cellular telephone projects for Motorola in Schaumburg, Ill., and a year in Prague, Czech Republic, as general counsel with Cesky Mobile, a wireless telecommunications company, when in 2002 he agreed to join the legal team at Next Level Communications, an iconic Telecom Valley company in Rohnert Park.

When Next Level moved to Massachusetts, Quinlan moved to telecom start-up Calix in Petaluma, where he set up and led their legal department for nine years until they moved management to the South Bay.

He and his family did not want to leave their home in Sebastopol, where Quinlan’s interests include refereeing youth soccer, and soon he was recruited to head the legal department at Enphase Energy, a solar inverter manufacturer founded by telecom engineers a few blocks from Calix.

“A very compelling, really fascinating company,” said Quinlan, who had just installed Enphase inverters on his roof when the company called. Enphase moved to Fremont earlier this year.

The Quinlans have been EverGreen customers since Sonoma Clean Power started, they drive two electric cars charged by their solar panels, and Quinlan said he was eager to volunteer when he learned of an opening on the Community Advisory Committee.

His term ends in December 2022.


 Helen Sizemore, 71, a resident of Mendocino County since 1975, describes herself as “focused on building community capacity and sustainability.”

She is a human resources professional who recently retired from her position as Human Resources Programs Administrator with North Coast Opportunities in Ukiah, where she worked for 20 years. North Coast helps low-income and disadvantaged people become self-reliant. It serves Mendocino and Lake counties, plus parts of Humboldt, Sonoma, Del North and Solano counties, employs 250 people and has an annual budget of about $15 million.

Sizemore has been certified as a Professional in Human Resources by the Society for Human Resources Management for 20 years.

Prior to joining North Coast, she was an executive assistant with Real Goods Trading Company in Ukiah for six years.

In January Sizemore was elected to her third two-year term as a delegate from the 2nd Assembly District to the California Democratic Party and serves on the party’s finance committee.

She is also the vice chair of the Mendocino County Democratic Central Committee for the inland area, roughly from Leggett south almost to Cloverdale.

A Ukiah resident, she is active with local non-profits such as the Ukiah Players Theater and the Kol Ha’Emek Jewish Community. She’s a graduate of Ohio University with degrees in philosophy and art history.

Her term expires December 2022.


Ken Wells, 65,  spent 16 years, from 1992 until his retirement in 2008, as both executive director of the Sonoma County Waste Management Agency and as the county's Integrated Waste Manager. This meant that he was the top county official in charge of solid waste disposal, with its landfills and transfer stations, of household hazardous waste facilities and of composting. He directed the development of the central disposal site on Mecham Road.

In the 1990s he was the county's main renewable energy official, due mainly to his role in installing a gas-to-electricity facility at the central disposal site, which eventually generated 7.5 megawatts of renewable energy, or enough to power the city of Cotati. He managed energy sales to PG&E and on the open market and, eventually, to the county water agency to help them reach their Carbon Free Water by 2015 goal.

Wells managed a team of more than 50 engineers and other specialists with a $50 million annual budget. He prepared rate-setting material to help the county board of supervisors set rates. He wrote and/or enforced hundreds of public contracts, he regulated private refuse companies and he oversaw several multi-million-dollar infrastructure improvements.

Before and after his county work, Wells has been a sustainability manager and consultant. 

"Energy conservation and efficiency in general have been the underlying principles of both my professional work and personal life," he said.  He is executive director of the Sonoma County Trails Council and lives in Santa Rosa.

His term ends in December 2019.

Pictures courtesy of Sonoma Clean Power

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