SMUD board of directors approves 2030 zero carbon plan

The Board of Directors for California public power utility Sacramento Municipal Utility District (SMUD) on April 28 approved a 2030 zero carbon plan for the utility.

The action comes after the board adopted a climate emergency declaration in July 2020 and asked staff to develop a plan to expedite carbon reductions due to the growing threats of climate change, SMUD noted.

SMUD said that over the past eight months, its staff has worked with customers and a variety of stakeholders to develop a plan that relies on:

  • Proven renewable technologies like wind, solar, hydroelectric, geothermal and biomass energy, and customer demand response. The plan triples renewable resources and battery storage and expands customer-owned resources such as rooftop solar and battery storage. Today, these resources help SMUD deliver power that is about 50 percent carbon free;
  • Exploring and pursuing new and emerging technologies like biofuels, thermal/battery hybrid, pumped hydroelectric storage, carbon capture and storage, power-to-gas, hydrogen and methane, long-duration batteries and compressed air storage;
  • New partnerships and business models to pursue emerging technology such as virtual power plants, vehicle-to-grid projects and more to leverage customers’ investments in clean energy to offset the need for energy from conventional gas power plants;
  • Aggressively support electrifying buildings and vehicles, because these are the two largest carbon emitting sectors in the state; and
  • Retiring, repurposing or repowering SMUD’s natural gas power plants, including the retirement of McClellan and Campbells gas-fired plants by 2025. The 2030 Zero Carbon Plan includes a road map for retiring or refueling SMUD's remaining plants by 2030, and SMUD will complete a robust reliability study to finalize the schedule.

The plan provides 90 percent of SMUD’s power from renewable sources, including up to an additional:

  • 1,500 megawatts (MW) new local utility solar
  • 700 to 1,100 MW local batteries
  • 300 to 500 MW wind
  • 100 to 220 MW geothermal
  • 100 MW regional solar

SMUD said that customers will play an important role in the region’s path to zero carbon. Over the next nine years, forecasts show customers will invest extensively in carbon-free energy resources, including 500 to 750 MW of rooftop solar and 50 to 250 MW of customer-owned battery storage, it noted.

“To pay for new technologies and make them available to customers in an equitable manner, SMUD will pursue partnerships, investors and grant funding, while keeping rates below inflation,” it said in a news release.

Paul Lau, SMUD’s CEO and general manager, recently discussed the zero carbon plan in an episode of the American Public Power Association’s Public Power Now podcast.