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Silicon Valley Power Departs from Coal Power

SVP began examining options for extracting itself from coal-powered resources in 2011.

Silicon Valley Power, the City of Santa Clara’s electric utility, will become coal-free on Dec.31, 2017, when it ends its ownership share of a San Juan, New Mexico coal-fired power plant. SVP will replace the power from the San Juan Generating Station with economical, cleaner energy from renewable and natural gas resources, benefiting all of SVP’s nearly 55,000 customers.

SVP began examining options for extracting itself from coal-powered resources in 2011. Coal power had previously been a reliable, cost-effective source of electricity to supplement seasonal hydroelectric generation and reduce purchases of expensive short-term power. However, coal is no longer compatible with SVP’s goals: While coal power provided just 10 percent of SVP’s electricity in 2016, it accounted for about 50 percent of the utility’s carbon emissions. In 2016, SVP announced its official plan for an exit from the coal plant, collaborating with other utilities to leave together. The coordinated departure played a role in the closure of half the power plant’s units. 

“Silicon Valley Power has been committed to eliminating coal as a source of electricity for our customers. This shift will effectively reduce the carbon footprint of our power supply by about 50 percent,” said Larry Owens, SVP Manager of Customer Services. “We will be coal-free two years ahead of the City of Santa Clara’s Climate Action Plan’s 2020 deadline.”

The move to reduce the carbon intensity of Santa Clara’s power supply has been driven by residents and businesses expressing interest in cleaner energy and the evolving pricing of cleaner power sources. As the dynamics of the power marketplace changes, SVP optimizes power purchasing in real time to ensure Santa Clara receives the most affordable power and meets its sustainability goals

As SVP’s Power Content Label shows, about 28 percent of Santa Clara’s power was sourced from state-mandated renewable resources in 2016. In total, just over 50 percent of power supplied by SVP is carbon-free, obtained from renewable and hydroelectric resources. SVP is well on its way to meeting California’s state mandate for a 33 percent renewable energy mix by 2020 while keeping electricity rates among the lowest in California. 

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