TRUCKEE, Calif. — The Truckee Donner Public Utility District moved nearly as fast as light when given a directive by the state of California.Recently, the district announced it has achieved compliance with a Sacramento mandate requiring electricity suppliers to procure 33 percent of their electricity from renewable sources by 2020.The PUD’s early compliance comes at a time when the district does not plan to increase electricity or water rates for the next two years, forecasts an increase in rates below inflation for the next 10 years and has grown its reserve fund budget from $12.9 million in 2007 to $16.1 million in 2011.“In 2007, the district was getting 92 percent of its energy from coal and 8 percent from renewables. Today we are about half coal,” said Steve Poncelet, public information and conservation manager for the TDPUD. “To make that dramatic of a shift and not increase rates is the real double-whammy here.”The district’s ability to secure long-term, price-fixed renewable energy contracts was made possible in part by its fortuitous position within the electrical grid, said Poncelet.Though TDPUD operates within California, it physically connects to a transmission network wholly inside NV Energy’s grid, which itself is within a network managed by the Western Electricity Coordinating Council — a regional entity controlling an electrical grid across nine western states, two Canadian provinces and one Mexican state.The district took advantage of this position, Poncelet said, and purchased enough renewable power from out-of-state networks to meet the California mandate. “We are not connected to California electrically, but we agreed to follow the California rules,” said Poncelet. “It was consistent with our board policy, and we knew our community wanted us to go green.”Stable electrical rates also help to keep water rates steady, Poncelet said. The fluctuations consumers see in water rates, he said, are direct reflections of the costs incurred by the district to deliver water.Nearly 85 percent of the district’s budget is fixed costs, he explained. The remaining 15 percent is primarily the cost of electricity to run the pumps delivering water from the district’s deep, ancient water aquifer to homes and businesses within the PUD’s service area. “When you can buy the renewables now and guarantee low prices when most utilities are raising rates up to 100 percent,” Poncelet said, “you do it.”
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