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. It is imperative that the Water Agency uses non polluting sources of energy in order to keep our watersheds' environment healthy. Our freshwater resources are very limited, where only 1% of all water on earth is available for human consumption. Climate science also leads us to believe that California has, and will continue to face periods of longer droughts, while also experiencing heavier rainfall from intense atmospheric rivers. With water scarcity and climate change imacts in mind, the Water Agency is looking ahead to become smarter with our water resources and water facilities. The more the Water Agency can do to mitigate and adapt to the impact of climate change, the more secure the water sources will be for the future.
The Water Agency will inevitably be one of the largest energy users in Sonoma County. We treat, pump and distribute water and wastewater for more than 600,000 residents in Sonoma and Marin counties. In light of this, in 2006, the Water Agency committed to the goal of operating a carbon free water system by 2015. To achieve and sustain carbon free water, 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.
The Water Agency contracts to procure almost 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 four solar photovoltaic projects totaling about 2 MW which account for 5% of its total electricity needs. The Water Agency procures local geothermal energy from Sonoma Clean Power's EverGreen program for 6% of its electricity needs. The remainder of its energy needs are met through a mix of renewable and carbon free resources from the Power and Water Resources Pooling Authority (PWRPA) and Lake Sonoma Warm Springs Dam hydropower. Warm Springs Dam accounts for 23%, and other hydropower accounts for 56%. Of the 100% renewable and carbon free sources the Water Agency utilizes, 40% are from local sources within Sonoma County.
The Water Agency was 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
On March 22, 2011, the Sonoma County Water Agency Board of Directors directed the Water Agency to investigate Community Choice Energy (CCE) while concurrently approving the Water Agency’s Energy Policy. Community Choice Energy allows one or more cities and/or counties to form a service area that provides for the option to purchase power generation from local sources that has a different electricity mix than that of the original investor owned utility. Creating competition in the electricity generation market, by creating choice in energy providers, is good for the community and the environment by driving electricity rates to be most competitive while also having a choice in the types of energy you can purchase. 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 CCE program and continue to receive their power generation services through the existing investor owned utility--although the starting generic rate for Sonoma Clean Power's Clean Start Program is cheaper than that of PG&E. Learn more about Sonoma Clean Power.
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.
If you have any questions or would like additional information about the Carbon Free Water Program, please click here to submit a comment form.