Carbon Free Water by 2015
The Sonoma County Water Agency has a duty to secure water for future generations of Sonoma County residents.
The potential impacts of climate change will make it more difficult to meet that mission. The more the Water Agency can do to mitigate the impact of climate change, the more secure the source of water will be for the future.
Being one of the largest energy users in Sonoma County, in 2006, the Water Agency committed to the goal of operating a carbon free water system by 2015. To achieve this goal, the Water Agency is actively working to diversify its energy portfolio and reduce its energy and fuel needs through efficiency and renewable energy production. Through this effort, the Water Agency is helping to pioneer new technologies that have been carefully evaluated for economic viability.
Achievement of Carbon Free Water
In 2015, the Water Agency has contracted to procure 100% of its electricity needs through renewable and carbon free resources, thus achieving a carbon neutral electricity supply to power its system. The Water Agency has three solar photovoltaic projects totaling almost 2 MW which account for 6% of its total electricity needs. The Water Agency procures local geothermal energy from Sonoma Clean Power's EverGreen program for 5% of its electricity needs. The remainder of its energy needs are met through PWRPA carbon free sources of the Sonoma County Landfill Gas to Energy project, Lake Sonoma Warm Springs Dam hydropower, and other non-local hydropower sources in the Sierra Nevada mountains. The landfill gas accounts for 55% of Water Agency electricity needs, Warm Springs Dam accounts for 27%, and other hydropower accounts for 7%. Of the 100% renewable and carbon free sources the Water Agency utilizes, 93% are from sources within Sonoma County.
The Water Agency was recently featured in the Union of Concerned Scientists' report "Clean Energy Opportunities in California's Water Sector". “This report finds that water and wastewater utilities are in a unique position to help California adapt to severe droughts and to achieve the state’s climate goals,” said Dr. Juliet Christian-Smith, a climate scientist in the California office of the Union of Concerned Scientists and co-author of the report. “The Sonoma County Water Agency is showing that making investments in clean, renewable sources of energy benefits customers and the environment by supplying carbon-free water.” The report is available at www.ucsusa.org/CAwaterenergy.
The Water Agency has received recognition from numerous distinguished organizations for its Carbon Free Water program. Below are several of the awards presented to the Water Agency.
Best Energy Program - Medium Utility
Energy Policy and Community Choice Aggregation
On March 22, 2011, the Sonoma County Water Agency Board of Directors directed the Water Agency to investigate Community Choice Aggregation (CCA) while concurrently approving the Water Agency’s Energy Policy. Community Choice Aggregation allows one or more cities and/or counties to form a service area that provides for the purchase of power generation of customers within that service area. Transmission, distribution, customer service and billing remain the same, delivered through the existing utility (PG&E). Customers within this service area can opt out of participating in the CCA program and continue to receive their power generation services through the existing utility.
Funding for Projects
The Water Agency aggressively researches and pursues federal and state grants to fund a majority of its energy and sustainability projects. In the past, grants have come from U.S. Department of Energy and the California Energy Commission. The Water Agency also reviews other opportunities to support its projects like developing partnerships with research and academic entities to acquire funding for needed feasibility studies or by building partnerships with private entities to bring about more public participation in the local communities. The Water Agency has a dedicated staff member whose main focus is finding grants for not only energy and sustainability projects but for all of the Water Agency’s projects and operations.
Contacting the Energy Resources Group
If you have any questions or would like additional information about the Carbon Free Water by 2015 Program, please click here to submit a comment form.