Guest column: Liberty Utilities’ environmental commitment
Liberty Utilities-CA serves nearly 50,000 electric customers in one of the most pristine areas of the country — Lake Tahoe and the surrounding region of Northern California.
While it’s no surprise that our customers rank environmental responsibility as very important, it’s been a welcome surprise that they rank Liberty’s environmental stewardship higher each year. In 2016, 75 percent said we were environmentally responsible, up from 68 percent the year before!
Liberty Utilities has taken several steps in recent years that contribute to our customers recognizing our environmental commitment.
Renewable Energy Commitment: Operating within California, Liberty Utilities must adhere to some of the most proactive and, some may argue, aggressively-regulated environments in the country. We negotiated to eliminate all coal-fired energy sources from our purchased power agreement (PPA) whenever possible beginning in 2016. In February 2017, Liberty’s new 50-megawatt solar facility came online and now supplies 25 percent of all customers’ energy needs!
Luning Solar is our first power-generation facility, and we’re already planning for an additional 10 megawatts to be added through another facility in 2018. These solar facilities, along with the pursuit of other renewable energy sources, help us meet California’s current Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) of 27 percent of total power mix, and will help meet this ever-increasing mandate in the future.
Electric Vehicle Incentives: Earlier this year, Liberty received permission from the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) to offer Time-of-Use Electric Vehicle (TOU-EV) rates to residential and small commercial customers who wish to charge their electric vehicles during off-peak when energy demand is at its lowest. While customers can sign up for these discounted energy rates now, Liberty has filed an application with the CPUC asking for permission to offer further incentives, including rebates for customers who install home and small business EV charging stations.
We recently hosted an Electric Vehicle Summit attended by a small but mighty group of governmental agencies, vendors, ski resorts, environmentalists and customers interested in the pursuit of electric vehicle use around the Lake Tahoe region. Working with the local bi-state, federal planning agency to identify potential charging station locations, the LU-CA is also coordinating with the local transportation district to help them meet their charging needs for new all-electric buses they may purchase.
As renewable energy, especially solar, becomes more competitive and feasible and technology advances are made to extend the range of electric vehicles, we’ll continue to pursue these energy options to be both environmentally-responsible and responsive to customers’ needs.
Travis Johnson is the vice president of electric operations for Liberty Utilities. He has nearly 25 years experience in the utility industry, and has a passion for renewable energy and the environment.