Accelerated timeline: SMUD announces 2030 zero carbon plan

Photo courtesy Wikipedia.

The Sacramento (Calif.) Municipal Utility District’s board of directors approved what the utility is calling the most ambitious carbon reduction plan by any large utility in the nation. This comes after the Board adopted a Climate Emergency Declaration in July 2020 and asked staff to develop a plan to expedite carbon reductions due to the growing threats of climate change.

“The threats to our region are real and unacceptable,” said Board President Nancy Bui-Thompson. “Sacramento consistently ranks as one of the dirtiest air basins in the country and it disproportionately impacts our most disadvantaged residents. Although we have had one of the most aggressive carbon-reduction plans in the nation, we realized we must do more.”

Over the past eight months, staff has worked with customers and a variety of stakeholders to develop a plan that relies on a tripling of :enewable resources and battery storage and expands customer-owned resources such as rooftop solar and battery storage. The utility said it will also explore new technologies like biofuels, thermal/battery hybrid, pumped hydroelectric storage, carbon capture and storage, power-to-gas, hydrogen and methane, long-duration batteries and compressed air storage.

To pay for the plan, SMUD said it will rely on new partnerships and business models to pursue emerging technology such as virtual power plants, vehicle-to-grid projects and more to leverage our customers’ investments in clean energy to offset the need for energy from conventional gas power plants.

In addition, it will support electrifying buildings and vehicles, because these are the two largest carbon emitting sectors in the state. Finally, the utility will repurpose or repower its natural gas power plants, including the retirement of McClellan and Campbells gas-fired plants by 2025. The 2030 Zero Carbon Plan includes a road map for retiring or refueling remaining plants by 2030, and SMUD will complete a robust reliability study to finalize the schedule.

The plan provides 90 percent of power from renewable sources, including up to an additional:

  • 1,500 megawatts (MW) new local utility solar
  • 700 to 1,100 MW local batteries
  • 300 to 500 MW wind
  • 100 to 220 MW geothermal
  • 100 MW regional solar

Customer-sited renewables and battery storage will also play a role, said SMUD. Over the next nine years, forecasts show customers will invest in up to 750-MW of rooftop solar capacity and 50 to 250 MW of customer-owned battery storage.

To pay for new technologies and make them available to customers in an equitable manner, SMUD will pursue partnerships, investors and grant funding, while keeping rates below inflation.

“Our customers are at the forefront of everything we do,” said Bui-Thompson. “Our goal of zero carbon will improve the lives of ALL our customers by providing cleaner air, better health outcomes, clean energy jobs and a thriving green economy.”

SMUD is the nation’s sixth-largest, community-owned, not-for-profit electric service provider, providing power to more than 1.5 million customers in California.

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