Truckee Donner Public Utility District candidates speak
October 8, 2008
Thomason: The conservation committee’s hard work resulted in 16 recommendations, the majority of which were in progress before the committee published and presented their report to the board. The most significant recommendations were the full conservation and generation retrofit of the TDPUD district office building as well as the partnership programs with other local agencies to promote conservation and green practices throughout the community. Working with local businesses and nonprofits helps to get the word out to the community about the importance of conservation, and the district office should be a showcase of conservation examples.
Bender: I believe the majority of the recommendations are excellent; however, for me, the most significant is education. Educating our students at all levels along with residents and business owners through presentations, workshops, field trips or even the development of a curriculum in support of the PUD’s efforts for conservation and renewable energy technologies is a guaranteed winning strategy. Education not only preserves our future by ensuring generations that are environmentally conscious, it provides others who may be resistant to certain changes the tools to understand and ideally accept the need for them and resulting benefits.
Aguera: In reply to the recommendations made by the Conservation Committee, all of these recommendations are good and we already had most of them implemented. They all work in conjunction with one another, and they are an ongoing continuing project; they don’t end. We enhance them and keep them going, creating more conservation and reducing costs as we go.
Laliotis: The first step is for district staff to analyze, adopt and implement a balanced, realistic and cost-effective package of electric and water conservation programs. These programs need to be analyzed on a yearly basis to determine cost effectiveness and conservation success. Second, it is imperative for the district to develop and implement the necessary tools to make these concepts and programs readily available to the customers. Effective customer outreach and education are the keys to success of any conservation program. Lastly, develop conservation-based rate structures for both water and electricity. This is a tried-and-true piece to the conservation puzzle and provides the foundation to support and validate virtually all conservation programs.
Johnston: Electricity and water conservation measures (ch. 9), and 2. Tiered rates for water and electricity.
Warren: Optional Green Power Program (optional being the key word for those who can afford it), green Schools and Energy Education Program (education of the youth can have powerful changes in the future), TDPUD Power of Conservation Website (when leading a horse to water you need to have the water first), low-interest financing for solar purchase and installation (Imagine if you could produce the majority of your own electricity), missing: Water conservation programs.
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Mock: … The report recommends picking the “low hanging fruit” and many of their recommendations have already been implemented in some degree or another … save one. They acknowledged that their work was only begun and that they would gladly continue to serve and provide further study and analysis. If elected, I will recommend that all of the stellar recommendations outlined in August report be adopted and, more importantly, that they be allowed to continue the work they have only begun. In my opinion, the most significant recommendation was to call for a change of organizational dynamics at the district which would place more emphasis on a conservation ethic among all staff. The committee recommended that the district office building and staff “walk the walk” of conservation and set an example for the community that they serve.
Hillstrom: … Implementing tiered rates for water and power. Currently the large commercial water users get cheaper water the more they use (declining block rates). That’s just ridiculous since each gallon of water costs at least as much as the previous gallon to pump (so the PUD is basically losing money on big water users). Related to that, it’s unfortunate that the PUD does not have a low-income rate given that the gas company and the phone company do. We all agree Truckee is an expensive place to live and it seems obvious to me that supporting our lower-income residents, from seniors or young families, is a worthwhile step … The various specific tactics in the report are not nearly as important as the basic change in mindset from “how do we buy the cheapest power” to “how do we satisfy the customer’s needs at the least cost and in the most environmental way” …
Thomason: I would seek any renewable energy sources that are reasonable priced and would lessen our dependence on coal power. The district will budget an unprecedented 22 percent renewable power portfolio for the 2009 fiscal year, which is above the board-directed goal of 21 percent for implementation by 2010. Renewable resources are a challenge because of transmission capabilities east of Truckee. We have some strong possible opportunities for geothermal, wind, and hydroelectric sources available to us from Nevada, Utah and Idaho.
Bender: I believe all renewable energy sources should be explored with a balanced approach in making choices. The PUD’s renewable portfolio should have some diversity to ensure both cost effectiveness and sustainability are addressed. Hydro power which already exists nearby, geothermal (three or so MW share of a Nevada geothermal plant is about to come online), wind (the PUD will receive about six to eight MW of a 100MW wind plant in Idaho soon), solar electric and biomass.
Aguera: Any renewable energy source that we can acquire. We do have some hydro, we have wind, and some solar, and waiting for geothermal. We at our PUD can only acquire renewable from the east side. We do not get anything from the California grid, so whatever we can get, that is affordable to us, we go for. We have now about a 18 to 19 percent of renewables in our portfolio.
Laliotis: I believe that the district needs to continue to enhance its renewable energy portfolio with responsible, reliable and cost effective sources of energy. Hydroelectric, wind, solar and geothermal are the four primary technologies I support. I feel all of these technologies have clear environmental benefits, and will continue to become more available and reliable over time. Another benefit is that some of these technologies have good potential for implementation on a local basis.
Johnston: Geothermal, because it is as cheap as fossil electricity, and 2. Wind, which is nearly cost-competitive.
Warren: Geothermal: Reliable, consistent, and inexpensive. Wind: If production is backed up by some of the new liquid lithium batteries, flywheels or other such storage methods that give us a consistent power supply. Hydro electric: Cheap and fairly consistent.
Mock: … The district might consider production-based incentives to encourage more owner/rate-payers to become sources of [solar energy]. Our high elevation climate is perfectly suited to solar PV because of our 300+ sunny days a year and clear air … Large wind turbines are popping up all over our great country but must be backed up when the wind is not blowing. Our water district stores water in huge tanks at high elevation. There must be a way to capture some of the kinetic energy … Wood chips are currently trucked right through our community on their way from the dump to the Loyalton biomass plant … That fuel could be used locally for power production while at the same time lowering the chances of a catastrophic fire … Fund local clean renewable distributed power generation and you create good local jobs …
Hillstrom: Regarding renewables, the PUD is now on a good path with Power Purchase Agreements (PPAs) with a geothermal plant in Northern Nevada, discussion of wind with a couple of providers and a PPA with the agency that runs Stampede Dam, among other things. I would push for more investigation of other geothermal plants in Northern Nevada … I would push for the PUD to support biomass more … The PUD can help encourage the growth of biomass by signing (no risk) contracts with biomass providers to buy their power once they get online … Truckee also has the potential to generate a good amount of solar power on a more industrial scale. … I’d also like to see the PUD encourage solar water heating, which is much more cost effective presently than solar PV.
Thomason: The board has agreed to the expedited plan for this state-mandated project which I fully support, however, I don’t support the district taking on more debt which is then passed to the ratepayers. Based on this concern, a revised plan was recently brought forward that addresses funding an expedited plan, but with smaller, short-term debt to the district.
Bender: The current board already approved an expedited approach on July 23, 2008. Thus, I think the focus now needs to be on streamlining the process of selling assets already intended to be sold to pay for this project. I want to ensure PUD customers are not paying enormous amounts of interest on unnecessary loans. It is my understanding staff is continuing to look into the financial impact of the board’s decision. Water metering is mandatory, but we need to come into compliance in the manner which has the least financial impact to the consumer.
Laliotis: I support the current TDPUD board decision to expedite the implementation plan for water meters. The meter mandate (Assembly Bill 2572) requires all water purveyors to begin consumption based billing by Jan. 1, 2010, on all customers for which meters have been installed. Where a meter has not been installed, the deadline extends to year 2025. Prior state law required the installation of a water meter on any new home construction since 1992. Therefore, homes built in the last sixteen years are required to begin consumption based billing in 2010, while older homes can be delayed. I cannot support having a flat rate water customer and a metered rate water customer living side by side based on when their home was built. Water is one of our most precious resources and we must all use it responsibly.
Aguera: I support an expedited implementation plan because it is better for our conservation program. It will cost everyone the same at this time, instead of having the increase costs of labor and materials in the future ” besides we will be done once and for all.
Johnston: I support expediting meters, as this will allow conservation (tiered) pricing sooner.
Warren: I believe that the plan that was a discussion item on the PUD Oct. 1, 2008 meeting included the best options for timeline and financing. Avoiding large amounts of long-term external debt is a key part of this plan.
Mock: I support an expedited water meter plan … Because our customers were on volumetric metering, a leak like this reared its ugly head on their bill. I was thanked countless times from drawing the customer’s attention to the huge potential cost savings of fixing the leak. In Truckee, we have no way of detecting those wasteful leaks and it is important to remind everyone that the water division is the single largest customer of the electric branch. Water conservation is by definition energy conservation. We value what we measure. Flat rate water billing is unconscionable in a world where fresh water is a finite and precious resource. We have the potential to save enormous amounts of water and energy by simply implementing the water meter as a tool for leak detection. The current flat rate structure actually encourages water gluttony. It is not sustainable … ask any dry well owner in Prosser.
Hillstrom: Regarding the water meter installation, we have legal requirements to get some of it online within the next couple of years so a delayed implementation is not really an option. We can delay some of the houses that don’t have metering infrastructure but then there’s the matter of fairness ” some customers will be metered and other will not. My decision on this would really come down the state and maturity of the technology ” if the pilot project for water AMR (automated meter reading) shows there is a good, financially reasonable AMR solution available now, I think we should expedite the implementation as it will be less expensive to do now than later, and the sooner it’s online, the sooner we’ll see the cost savings from metered water.
Thomason: No, and the issue is basically dead. The plan brought forward over six years ago was too expensive and would likely be even more expensive today. Times have changed, there are now several local Internet providers and there is probably not a large enough market for it. The success rate for broadband projects implemented by utility districts is not clear from our benchmarking studies.
Bender: No, I do not. The Truckee Donner PUD provides water and electricity, and I plan on keeping it that way. However, I do support actively seeking an entity to lease the infrastructure now owned by the PUD. The PUD has spent over 3 million dollars securing ownership of this broadband infrastructure. We now owe it to our customers to recoup that money.
Aguera: I do not support any ongoing efforts on broadband Internet services. We have a big investment in this now, and I feel we should lease our facilities to a corporation in business in such things the broadband requires and get our money out and back to us, and keep it leased out.
Laliotis: I do not support the TDPUD being a direct provider of broadband services. At the time this project was conceived, there was little high speed Internet infrastructure available in Truckee. Today, other providers have entered the market and built the necessary infrastructure to provide most areas with high speed access. I support the current TDPUD plan to try to lease its current broadband infrastructure to private entities. This would allow the TDPUD to recover its initial costs and provide a possible long-term, reliable revenue source.
Johnston: Yes, as we have a sunk cost we could recover. But only in the form of leasing our fiber lines to someone. We would not provide the service.
Warren: I support leasing our existing infrastructure to a private company and create a stable source of revenue for the PUD.
Mock: It is my understanding that the TDPUD is attempting to recoup their loses on this project by selling assets acquired with borrowed money (legally?) from water department funds. It is no longer an ongoing effort. When we have taken care of business with a 100 percent renewable portfolio standard and have documented that all the leaks in our water infrastructure are mitigated, then and only then should we even consider expanding the scope of what our mission is. Millions were diverted to this project and it is time to let it go, recoup what we can and focus on our core mission of sustainable, dependable water and power.
Hillstrom: Regarding broadband, I don’t support devoting any significant resources to developing it although I do think we should not forget about it entirely for a couple reasons. The first is that the PUD needs connectivity throughout the district to implement new automated meter reading technologies and if the connectivity is there, then it can potentially be leveraged for the ratepayers. Also, there are new wireless technologies that are in development as well as BPL (broadband over powerlines) efforts underway. I don’t think we should invest in BPL or WiMax or any other speculative technology until it’s proven, but we should keep and eye on these options.
Thomason: The districts’ wells are very deeply drilled into the Martis Valley aquifer and are not likely to ever become dry. It’s unknown why private wells that are not on the PUD system go dry, as was the case for some Prosser Dam Road residents. We are working with those residents to address their fire suppression issue. Once the fire suppression system has been constructed, individual residents will be able to become part of the PUD water system.
Bender: It is important to ensure you are tapping into a variety of aquifers at very different depths. Input from both experts and residents is key in order to avoid any scarcity of water issues. The PUD must be sensitive to these types of matters. Water is a necessity of life, and no one in the district should be without a reliable water source.
Aguera: As far as avoiding dry well problems, no one knows when a well will go dry. Our wells for the PUD are monitored, so we know where we are. In talking about private wells, you would probably need a crystal ball.
Laliotis: You must first know the cause of the dry well water problem to figure out how to avoid it. It is incumbent upon every water well owner (both public and private) to monitor certain characteristics of their well on a regular basis. As it relates to wells running dry, it is most important for all owners to monitor the water levels in their well with the pump on and off, on a very regular basis, and over the life of the well. This kind of historical data allows one to follow trends to see how climate and local changes affect water levels and to gauge the general health of their well.
Hydrogeology is far to complex to discuss in this forum, however, basic monitoring and maintenance of a well can determine the health of a well and also help identify causes of failures.
Johnston: I believe the PUD has no dry wells. If you mean private wells, they are not our problem. I would, however, help those property owners with studies and tests, if these would help figure out the causes. The issue of firefighting water (hydrants) is perhaps a bit different and the PUD and town may want to cooperate in discussions about this issue.
Warren: Water tracers to track aquifers, time limits on use of water delivery contracts.
Mock: The only way to avoid a dry well water problem is to admit that aquifers are not infinite. The sad truth is that we can reach and may have already reached peak water. We can not infinitely pump water for thirsty developments such as golf courses without consequences. The first rule of ecology is that you can not do just one thing. Volumetric metering rate structures that encourage conservation and discourage gluttony are the best bet at preventing further dry well problems. We must also remember that water shed conservation ensures that what water filters back into the aquifer is the clean, good-tasting stuff that many of us take for granted until we get off the hill. Good stewardship of our water resource demands rigorous conservation and water shed protection.
Hillstrom: … I think we need to do a couple things going forward. First, we need to require any new massive water user, like the Gray’s golf course, to depend primarily on recycled gray water. It makes no sense to pump millions of gallons of the purest drinkable water in the country out of the ground in order to water a golf course. Second, in areas where there are residents with shallow wells, we need to update our basic geomorphology surveys to better understand the connectivity of our aquifers. My understanding is that the data we have is quite old and incomplete. … I think we should more carefully monitor our water resources. There’s been an assumption that our water supply is nearly limitless which tends to lend itself to a casual approach to assessing water reserves. We should reassess our water reserves every few years …