TRUCKEE, Calif. — The Truckee Donner Public Utility District has been busy doing its part to protect the environment.
From 2008 to 2012, the district has reduced greenhouse gas emissions by 57 percent, according to a recent study. It’s done so largely by moving away from the fossil fuel coal to renewable energies such as wind, solar and landfill gas, while increasing operational efficiency.
At the same time, the district has increased its renewable energy purchases from 8 percent in 2008 to 42 percent in 2012, as defined by the California Energy Commission, said Steven Poncelet, public information and conservation manager for TDPUD.
Despite most energy procured by the TDPUD not being generated locally, it still has an environmental impact, he said.
“People want to attribute a local action to a local benefit, but carbon is a global problem and a global issue,” Poncelet said. “... So what’s the benefit to us being green in Idaho? The answer is the planet gets protected.”
In Idaho, the TDPUD owns 15 percent of the Horse Butte Wind Farm project, making up a large portion of its renewables. Other district resources are in Utah and Nevada, Poncelet said.
Community feedback has helped drive the change, Poncelet said, along with state mandates such as the Global Warming Solutions Act — requiring 1990 greenhouse gas emission levels by 2020 — and Renewable Portfolio Standard — requiring total energy procurement to be 33 percent renewable by 2020.
“These mandates and regulations can have pretty dramatic cost impacts to customers and rates, so every utility in the state is trying to understand how can I meet these requirements, try to keep rates stable, competitive, and the power and water reliable,” Poncelet said. “So it’s that balance.”
The last time rates increased for TDPUD’s approximately 14,000 customers was 2010 — 1.75 percent for water and zero percent for electric, according to the district.
“These unfunded mandates can create significant uncertainty and risk for utilities, said Tony Laliotis, TDPUD board member, in a statement. “It is very impressive that we have been able to position the TDPUD to meet these mandates, maintain stable rates and do our part to protect the environment.”
Since the district was early in responding to requirements, it allowed officials to do a comprehensive review of potential renewable energy sources and cherry-pick the best deals, Poncelet said, thereby saving customers money while attracting others with green energy.
“A lot of companies want to say, ‘Hey, I manufactured my product with green energy,” Poncelet said. “People want to be associated with communities that are progressive and trying to take a lead in the future,”
The PUD is positioned to meet the 2020 state mandates, barring an unexpected event, he said.
The 2012 Greenhouse Gas Emissions Re-Inventory study was done through a $7,500 contract with Truckee-based Sierra Business Council, which the TDPUD funded through district rate collection.
The study looked at five greenhouse gases — carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, refrigerants and sulfur hexafluoride — while examining four TDPUD emissions categories — water department operations, electric department operations, delivered electricity and bulk transmission losses.
“One of the things we’re concerned about is, OK, so we’ve done all this positioning, we’ve done all this work — what’s next?” Poncelet said. “Someone is going 50 percent by 2030. It may sound like a good idea, but a lot needs to happen between then and now. ... So we’re always vigilant in trying to understand and track potential new regulation.”
Established in 1927, TDPUD is a nonprofit, publicly owned electric and water utility service provider, serving the greater Truckee area, including portions of Placer County.