By Sheryl Hamlin
According to the staff report for the October 21, 2020 Special Meeting, Santa Paula joined SoCalREN in 2015. However, it is not clear if SoCalREN had previously analyzed the city’s energy use portfolio based on the wording in the staff report:
In an effort to reduce the City’s overall energy usage and corresponding spending, the City re-engaged with the SoCalREN to complete a citywide assessment of the City’s facilities
What is SoCalREN?
SoCalREN is a Regional Energy Network established by the CPUC in 2012 and administered by Los Angeles County. There is also a Northern California REN and two other RENs. See list. Read official Press Release from 2012.
The RENs are funded from ratepayer monies. For example, in the calendar year 2018, SoCalREN accepted $21.7 million from the CPUC collected from SCE (Southern California Edison) and SCG (Southern California Gas) for energy efficient projects. Read the details here. It is not clear how much of the monies pay for consultants, administration of projects and financing. Energy Efficient projects must have a defined payback. Every year a new IOU (Investor Owned Utility) budget is established. In 2013-2014, SoCalREN received $44 million. In terms of agency total spending this is obscured in the annual report which highlights energy savings and not agency costs.
Community Choice Aggregation (CCA)
In March 2018, Santa Paula voted to join the Lancaster CCA. The joining fee was $65,000 which included an energy audit. It is not clear if these monies were paid.
In May 2018, former City Manager Rock signed an MOU with Climatec for an energy audit, presumably this audit was a result of the CCA, but this was not confirmed by staff; however based on the dates, this is entirely probable. Read the MOU here Item 13.
Council Member Crosswhite asked about the Lancaster CCA. Public Works Director Saunier did not respond about the CCA, but said that the Climatec audit was unacceptable to the staff due to the temperatures required to meet the financial goals (too hot in summer and too cold in winter). City Manager Singer indicated via email that there was an extension to the Lancaster CCA through March of 2021.
At the August 2020 council meeting, Public Works reported the SCE was replacing the SCE owned streetlights with LED lights at no cost to the city. There was no mention at this time about an energy audit in progress with SoCalREN nor did SoCalREN mention the SCE upgrades.
The audit started with a review of the energy usage (gas and electricity) for 2019. The following charts summarize each.
Council Member Juarez questioned the electricity usage at Las Piedras Park, which he said, was a small building. Could the park lights be on the same meter? This should be verified because lighting should be separate in the event the park is leased to an event.
Council Member Sobel asked about building insulation, solar and noted the excessive use of gas at the wastewater plant. The SoCalREN consultant agreed that insulation would help. As to solar, solar is not considered an EEM (energy efficiency measure), so the RENs are not allowed to address solar, but could point the city to a solar contractor. And, the question about gas at the wastewater plant could not be answered by staff or consultants, including an MKN consultant on the call, so this must be researched.
Public Works Director Saunier said that changes in process now at the wastewater plant would ensure that the plant is solar ready in terms of infrastructure strength. Water pumping uses the most electricity, according to the SoCalREN report, but there was no discussion about solar for the water delivery systems. The consultants suggested upgrading pump efficiency.
From the staff report:
● Interior and exterior lighting retrofits throughout City-owned facilities
● HVAC replacements at the Community Center, Police Department, City Hall, and
Community and Economic Development Department
● Street lighting retrofits
● Enhanced aeration controls, upgrade membrane bioreactor (MBR) modules, and
high-efficiency digester mixers at Water Reclamation Facility (WRF)
In total, these EEMs have the potential to reduce the City’s total electricity usage by 1,011,104 kWh and electricity cost by $129,495 annually. These savings would equate to 13% of the City’s current usage.
Note that the Public Works staff had already identified energy savings with the membranes and the mixers at the wastewater plant.
Direction from Council
Council Member Crosswhite reiterated that she would like to see the energy usage analysis broken down by General Fund versus Enerprise Funds. How are such bills allocated today, she asked?
The council also agreed to include a solar component, but did not give direction as to details. Variations on solar could include water pumping as well as wastewater, battery storage and feed-in credits.
The council agreed to receive and file the report and return with updates.
To read the entire report, click here.
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