The potential impacts of climate change will make it more difficult to meet that mission. It is imperative that Sonoma Water uses nonpolluting sources of energy to keep our watersheds' environment healthy. Our freshwater resources are very limited, and only 1% of all the water on earth is available for human consumption. Climate science also reveals that California has and will continue to face periods of longer droughts while also experiencing extreme variations in precipitation patterns from intense atmospheric rivers. With water scarcity and climate change impacts in mind, Sonoma Water is looking ahead to becoming more efficient with our water resources and facilities. The more we can do to mitigate and adapt to the impact of climate change, the more secure the water sources will be in the future.
Sonoma Water will inevitably be one of the largest energy users in Sonoma County. We treat, pump, and distribute water for more than 600,000 residents in Sonoma and Marin counties. We also collect, treat, reuse, and safely discharge wastewater from more than 70,000 Sonoma County customers. In light of this, in 2015, Sonoma Water achieved the goal of operating a carbon free water system. Our commitment to carbon free water means that Sonoma Water is devoted to solely utilizing energy that comes from non-fossil fuel-based resources. To achieve and sustain carbon free water, Sonoma Water actively analyzes its energy portfolio to reduce its energy and fuel needs through cost-effective strategies involving energy efficiency, renewable energy development, and power purchases from carbon free sources.
Sonoma Water contracts to procure over 99% of its electricity needs through renewable and non-fossil fuel-based resources, thus achieving a carbon neutral electricity supply to power its system. Sonoma Water has four solar photovoltaic projects totaling about 2 megawatts (MW) which on average amount to 5% of its total electricity needs. Sonoma Water procures local geothermal energy and wind energy from Sonoma Clean Power's EverGreen program for about 6% of its electricity needs. The remainder of our energy mix is 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. Altogether our hydropower supply amounts to 68% of our overall load. Of the total renewable and carbon free sources Sonoma Water utilizes, 20% are from local sources within Sonoma County.
Sonoma Water 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. “Sonoma Water 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.
Sonoma Water has received recognition from numerous distinguished organizations for its Carbon Free Water program.
Below are several of the awards presented to Sonoma Water.
Best Energy Program - Medium Utility
On March 22, 2011, Sonoma Water Board of Directors directed Sonoma Water to investigate Community Choice Energy (CCE) while concurrently approving the 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 choices 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.
If you have any questions or would like additional information about the Carbon Free Water Program, please click here to submit a comment form.