Truckee utility sees green-energy savings
A plan released Wednesday by the Truckee Donner Public Utility District reflects what critics of green power would never admit: It now may be cheaper to go with renewable energy sources.Last year a debate raged within the board room of the district, pitting advocates of a proposed coal energy contract against those who wanted an environmentally friendly alternative. The resulting public outcry prompted directors of the 11,000-customer utility to back off signing a 50-year contract for energy from a coal-fired plant in Utah. On Wednesday, Assistant General Manager Steve Hollabaugh presented a plan for future energy supplies that calls for a mixed portfolio of power sources. Of the three projected scenarios, the plan with the highest portion of renewable sources 29 percent of the total also carried the lowest projected price tag.Hollabaugh presented three energy portfolios with costs ranging from $60 to $62.8 per megawatt hour. Any of the three strategies would cost less than a comparable contract for coal-generated power from Utah-based Constellation, which would have cost the district $78.5 per megawatt hour. The outlined plans would mix renewable energy sources of geothermal and hydroelectric with natural gas and energy from a pool shared by a number of municipalities. So-called shaped capacity contracts last 12 to 15 months, and allow buyers to purchase a specific amount of power based on demand, Hollabaugh said in a previous interview.Hollabaugh noted in his report that although Truckee customer rates will probably go up next year, the rates will be less expensive than those charged by Sierra Pacific Power and Pacific Gas & Electric.I dont want you to think that we are not going to ask for a rate increase, said district Interim General Manager John Ulrich.The energy portfolio mixes many different contracts, which must be renegotiated more frequently than the 50-year coal contract would have required. Hollabaugh and a few directions called that decision risky, but in the end, the directors and the interim manager expressed support for the new strategy.Two or three years ago, if you had come to us with all of these variables we would have said what is your problem, said Director Ron Hemig. This is the natural outcome of a policy decision of the board.Ulrich said the utility would have to negotiate the shorter-term contracts more frequently.You might have to make these decisions several times per year to get the best price, Ulrich said.
Ulrich also informed the board that the proposed energy portfolio was a big-ticket item that needed to be acted on immediately if the district were to negotiate the best prices.A former critic of the Truckee Donner utilitys board lauded the districts new direction toward renewables and conservation.The board seems to understand that when they turn down coal there will be lots of buying decisions throughout the year, said Truckee Town Planner Bob Johnston. Ron Hemig had it exactly right when he said their start-up years will be the most difficult.
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