Grid Modernization

Turlock Irrigation District GM details priorities, addresses storage, EVs

In a recent interview with the American Public Power Association, Casey Hashimoto, general manager of California public power utility Turlock Irrigation District, said that his two key priorities these days are succession planning and Turlock Irrigation District’s transition to a new customer information system, which is scheduled to be in place by early 2020.

In the interview, he also discussed whether the District’s customers have expressed interest in energy storage and provided details about Turlock Irrigation District’s plans on the electric vehicle front.

So what are Hashimoto’s current priorities?

“The first one is internal succession planning,” he said. “Over the past five years, due to the aging workforce, I had the opportunity to select my entire senior management team,” he said.

Hashimoto currently has five assistant general managers reporting to him with business unit responsibility in water resources, power supply, financial services, electrical engineering and operations, external affairs, as well as resource management, planning and rates.

“I have a young, dynamic, very capable team in place, and I am confident that they will find solutions to some of the most challenging issues I have ever seen in both in water and energy sectors,” he said in the interview.

The other priority for Hashimoto is TID’s customer information system. “We had a legacy system that was developed in house prior to Y2K and it has served us very well over the years, but because of limited functionality, it was decided we really need to replace the system to be able to take advantage of” things like a meter data management system or an outage management system. “It all hinges on having a good customer information system,” he noted.

Earlier this year, the utility started the process to replace the customer information system. “It’s going to be a two-year process. The current projection is to have it in place by first quarter of 2020,” Hashimoto said.

Smart meters

Meanwhile, Turlock Irrigation District has replaced more than 45,000 existing retail electric meters with new, advanced smart meters.

Hashimoto was asked to discuss how the smart meters have benefitted customers, as well as how they have boosted operational efficiencies for Turlock Irrigation District.

“The obvious labor savings and efficiencies is that you can remotely get meter reads and we also have the remote disconnect feature on our meters,” he said.

Hashimoto said that taking full advantage of the smart meters is going to require having not only the customer information system in place, but also a meter data management system up and running, “so we can process this massive amount of data.”

He said it is “a precursor to the benefits that the customers will enjoy once we do have the CIS [customer information system] in place, the MDM [meter data management system] in place and then we can get the advanced features like” all customers being able to check their power usage online.

Turlock Irrigation District has continued the meter replacement effort so that “by the end of this year, we will have completed that project” and replaced existing meters with AMI meters, he said.  

Energy storage and EVs

Meanwhile, the Turlock Irrigation District general manager was asked to discuss two hot topics these days in the power industry – energy storage and electric vehicles.

Interest in energy storage continues to grow, particularly in California. Against that backdrop, Hashimoto was asked whether customers of Turlock Irrigation District are voicing interest in energy storage and whether he has any sense as to whether Turlock Irrigation District’s customers, residential or otherwise, are installing storage systems.

“What we’ve found is we’ve seen very limited interest voiced by our customers for energy storage,” he said. Hashimoto noted that “we do have a large percentage of low-income customers and several disadvantaged communities within our service district, and so they’re obviously very focused on affordability.”

He said that the District has determined that “we have less than five residential customers” that have behind the meter energy storage. “The way we’ve been able to keep track of that is when they install solar systems they apply for interconnection and that triggers a field inspection. If storage is part of that solar system,” it is at that point when the District can become aware of a storage system at a customer location.

As for EVs, in 2014 Turlock Irrigation District’s board voted in favor of allowing owners of plug-in electric vehicles to request time-of-use rates, with the option available over a three-year time period. The concept was to create a pilot rate to understand how customers would react when owning an EV.

Hashimoto was asked to discuss what Turlock Irrigation District learned from that experience and whether a lot of plug-in EV customers decided to request time-of-use rates.

“What we did find with that is that we had very low EV adoption within our District,” he said. “We are still considerably rural and there’s a big reliance on work trucks and farm vehicles.”

He said that “we only had 23 customers opt in for that EV time-of-use rate,” which expired in 2017.

“What we are doing now is we are currently working on a EV program that we’re going to present to our board next month and we’ll include customer rebates for EV purchases and then we hope through this rebate process, we’ll get a better understanding of where EVs are purchased and being charged within the District.”

If the board approves the program, Turlock Irrigation District hopes to have it in place by the beginning of 2019.

Energy efficiency rebate programs

In the interview, Hashimoto also discussed Turlock Irrigation District’s energy efficiency rebate programs and how popular they are with customers.

He noted that Turlock Irrigation District currently offers 16 residential rebates and six non-residential rebates “to help our customers achieve energy savings.”

In 2017, “we saved about 15,000 megawatt-hours – 59 percent of those savings came from the rebates alone,” Hashimoto noted.

Turlock Irrigation District issued about 1,200 rebates to residential customers and 87 rebates to non-residential customers in 2017. As part of its customer research program, Turlock Irrigation District conducted a focus group specifically to hear feedback regarding its energy efficiency program. As a result, “We believe our programs are pretty well received by our customers and we continue to look for ways to reach out to them,” he said.

Turlock Irrigation District communicates with its customers about the rebate programs through many communication methods including bill stuffers, print advertisements, social media, and community events.

CEC home solar standards

Hashimoto was also asked to comment on recent standards adopted by the California Energy Commission that will require solar photovoltaic systems on newly constructed residential buildings in the state starting in 2020.

He said that the CEC move is “a big step for California” and is very consistent with where the state has been going with its renewable portfolio standard and emission reduction efforts.

At the same time, he said that as a state with some of the highest home prices in the United States, “I’m a little concerned about home affordability,” Hashimoto said.

“We have currently analyzed what impacts this would have. We are currently analyzing the District load post-2020, and based on our previous models, it’s not much of a change, but it does represent a further decline of load going forward,” he noted.

Hashimoto appointed GM in 2011

Hashimoto was appointed general manager by the TID Board of Directors in March 2011. Under the policy-setting guidance of the District’s elected board, Hashimoto directs the day-to-day operations of the District’s extensive irrigation water storage and delivery system, as well as the generation, transmission and distribution of electricity within a 662 square-mile service area in Central California.

Hashimoto has more than 30 years of service at the District, and has been responsible for many significant projects including commissioning a 174 MW natural gas fired power plant as well as installing 14 miles of 115 kV transmission line, securing a water sales agreement with local cities, acquiring 54 megawatts of solar via a purchased power agreement and continues to lead the organization through a relicensing process with the Federal Energy Commission.

Hashimoto is a graduate of California Polytechnic State University with a Bachelor of Science degree and is a licensed professional electrical engineer in California.