The sun shines on low income customers in Santa Clara

We are excited to kick off our new Low Income Solar Grant Program, which providesSolar Panels Close Up income-qualified homeowners with a free solar photovoltaic (PV) system! This program is intended to help reduce overall utility costs for those customers who have an ongoing financial need. It also provides 100% renewable energy to their home, which contributes to the City of Santa Clara’s Climate Action Plan goals. The program will also help support the local solar contractors who have had their businesses impacted by the current health crisis.

Through this grant program, we will provide up to $10,000 per home to cover the cost of the solar system and permit application fees, with a maximum payment of $3.30 per watt, up to 3 kilowatts (CEC-AC). The program is designed to cover 100% of the cost of the PV system based on average system costs in our area. A 3 kilowatt system can cover 100% of the electricity consumed by the average Santa Clara customer over the course of the year.

All applicants will meet with a solar specialist on our staff to learn more about owning a solar system, as well as what changes they can expect on their utility bill under the Net Metering Program. Net Metering includes an annual “true-up” of energy produced versus energy consumed and the monthly bill is handled differently from other electric bills, as payment is only required annually. The Net Metering Program allows customers to “bank” power when they produce more than they consume and use it as a credit in months where they consume more than they produce.

As a part of the program, we will also help customers evaluate multiple bids to ensure they meet the program requirements before signing a contract. The grant is paid directly to the contractor or installer so customers do not have to spend any money out of pocket. Under this program, we anticipate installing at least 30 solar systems for low income homeowners in Santa Clara this year.

In order to be eligible for the grant, homeowners must be a current Financial Rate Assistance Program participant for over one year. Income eligibility documentation is required. Complete program requirements can be found on the Low Income Solar Grant Reservation Form.

Public utility workers are some of California’s unsung heroes of coronavirus crisis

The coronavirus pandemic has given us a new sense of appreciation for the men and Two Bucket trucks working on a Utility Polewomen who keep Santa Clara’s critical infrastructure running smoothly. From doctors and nurses to grocery-shelf stockers to parcel delivery personnel, the importance of these essential workers to our society and our economy cannot be overstated.

The men and women who work for California’s public power utilities belong in this special class of often unsung heroes. They are quite literally powering America through this crisis.

More than 49 million Americans get their electricity from not-for-profit, community-owned public power utilities like Silicon Valley Power.

We provide low-cost, reliable electricity to over 57,000 customers in Santa Clara and employ 198 people. Last year, we contributed $21 million dollars to the City’s general fund, which helps to provide essential services such as the police and fire departments.

In 1896, our community made a choice to operate under a public power model so that our utility would be responsive and accountable to the community first. Being a public power utility has allowed us to make critical investments in maintenance and improvement of our electrical grid to ensure its reliability, especially during times of crisis.

In 2005, we brought the Donald Von Raesfeld Power Plant online, providing 147 megawatts of in-town generation to serve Santa Clara customers. In 2013, we became the first electric utility in the U.S. to provide free city-wide outdoor internet access to all who live, work or play in Santa Clara. In 2020 and beyond, we remain committed to serving our community. Over the next five years, we will be installing up to 300 new electric vehicle (EV) charging stations at Santa Clara parks and other public spaces, with 77 of those stations being installed later this year.

During challenging times like the ones we now find ourselves in, the last thing members of our community should have to be concerned about is the safety and reliability of their electricity supply.

With more than 90 percent of the U.S. population confined to their homes, home energy use has predictably increased. It isn’t just your homes that depend upon public power. We also provide power to Intel, Nvidia, Applied Materials, Oracle, Kaiser Hospital, Santa Clara University, California’s Great America Theme Park, and countless restaurants, gas stations, grocery stores, and retail establishments.

A low-cost, reliable supply of electricity is a blessing that is too often taken for granted.

The simple act of turning on a light switch or charging a smartphone is made possible by the engineers, technicians, lineworkers, and support staff that comprise America’s public power workforce. They do their jobs with care and professionalism, sometimes at great personal sacrifice and risk. They are a perfect example of ordinary people doing extraordinary things to help their communities and their country in times of need, and we appreciate all that our employees are doing to continue to provide you with reliable power and essential services today and every day.

Protect Yourself from Utility Scam Artists

Scammers can target anyone. You may receive a call from someone requesting protect yourself from scamsfraudulent payments for your utility bills. The best way to identify scammers is to familiarize yourself with commonly used utility scam tricks.

We have identified a few red flags and tips to help you identify scams:

  • We will never ask you to pay your utility bill with a prepaid card or gift card.
  • Caller ID can be falsified – scam callers may fake a Silicon Valley Power or City of Santa Clara phone number.
  • We will never ask you to make your utility payment at a grocery or convenience store.
  • If a caller asks for personal information or a payment, do not provide it.

If you receive a suspicious utility call, hang up immediately and report the crime to the Santa Clara Police Department nonemergency number at (408) 615-5580 or report the crime on the City of Santa Clara website.

If you are concerned about your account status, call the City of Santa Clara Municipal Services Department (Utility Billing) at (408) 615-2300.

The Power of Community

Public Power Wee LogoThere are many reasons to celebrate the Santa Clara community and having access to local, high quality electricity service is an important one. Every October, public power utilities, including Silicon Valley Power (SVP), celebrate Public Power Week to recognize over 2,000 utilities across the nation that are community-owned, not-for-profit organizations. Unlike other cities that have to rely on large investor-owned utilities, Santa Clara benefits from having a municipally-owned utility that cares about making our city a rewarding place to live. A local business model makes sure that customers can count on responsiveness and investments in community growth, as well as continued affordable rates ensured by our not-for-profit status.

In addition to being invested in the success of Santa Clara, our team is also a part of the community. Our local expertise allows us to create programs and services that are tailored to the needs of Santa Clara’s residents. Our initiatives include investments in free outdoor Wi-Fi throughout the city, student scholarships, and a Tool Lending Library to contribute to the growth of Santa Clara’s economy and a high quality of life for all residents.

As a public power entity, we are also able to make a direct impact on creating a sustainable future for Santa Clara. When the community began to show interest in renewable energy, we launched Santa Clara Green Power, a 100 percent green power option available to all residents and businesses. We also offer a full suite of energy efficiency rebates for residents and businesses, free home energy audits, and energy efficiency resources for our business customers to help our customers improve the comfort of their homes and facilities while saving energy and money.

Sponsoring and enjoying regular community events is another benefit to our local operations. Each year, we look forward to supporting events that allow our friends and neighbors to connect over local entertainment, such as the annual Fourth of July fireworks and the holiday tree lighting ceremony.

As your locally-owned utility and trusted energy advisor, we’re proud to play an integral role in the Santa Clara community!

EnergyAlert Keeps Businesses in Santa Clara Informed

Transmission lines with wind turbines in the backgroundWhen you’re at home blow‑drying your hair or cooking with an electric grill and the lights dim for a second as you plug in these devices, the electrical capacity available to the lighting in your home is briefly decreased due to the number of high-wattage appliances in use at the same time. A similar process occurs on a much grander scale when there is a short circuit on the transmission grid, reducing the voltage below where it should be for a split second and causing commercial production to stop or glitch. In Santa Clara, this affects data centers, businesses who work with critical materials in technology and production, and other large‑scale operations that have extensive power requirements.

While power quality events only happen a few times a year today, these incidents used to be much more frequent in the South Bay region, occurring up to 20‑25 times per year. To address this, nearly 20 years ago our team launched EnergyAlert, a notification system that informs local businesses 24/7 when a power quality event occurs. This information allows customers to respond quickly during an event and take action to minimize disruptions to their operations.

Visit our website for more information on EnergyAlert and how the program has supported Santa Clara businesses for decades.

Power to the Public

PPW 2017 GraphicIn Santa Clara, the people have the power. All electricity in the city is provided by our community-owned, not-for-profit entity – Silicon Valley Power (SVP). We are among the few fortunate communities that have retained this setup: Only 14 percent of all electricity customers in the U.S. are served by public power. The public, local-ownership model ensures that the utility and the community’s interests are aligned. Our team here at SVP knows that when we’re all on the same team, there are a lot of benefits.

LOW, STABLE RATES

Silicon Valley Power provides the lowest electric rates of any utility in California serving more than 5,000 customers. We set our rates based on our operating expenses because we are a not-for-profit entity. Our stable, low rates mean residents can save for their families and businesses can count on Santa Clara as great place to grow their operations. In contrast, investor-owned utilities (IOUs) like Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) are tied to shareholders whose interests may not match up with those of the communities they serve. The difference that makes? Our community saves an estimated over $100M in electric costs annually.

CUSTOM COMMUNITY SOLUTIONS

As a public power entity, we can provide programs and services tailored to Santa Clara’s unique needs. We have invested in long-term power contracts from reliable, sustainable power sources and in critical infrastructure that will provide benefits for years to come. Programs like our energy-efficiency rebates are designed with Santa Clara residents in mind. Our community initiatives, such as our local scholarships, Neighborhood Solar Program, Tool Lending Library, and sponsorships, move our city forward. Similarly, when our community began to show interest in renewable energy, we started offering Santa Clara Green Power, our award-winning 100 percent green power option. The program launched way back in 2004, long before most utilities in the region provided comparable offerings. Santa Clara Green Power has been ranked in National Renewable Energy Laboratory’s (NREL) Top 10 Utility Green Power Programs for 11 consecutive years, has ranked fourth in the nation for its collective green power use by the EPA, and has offered green power rates significantly lower than those of surrounding communities.

LOCAL JOBS & EMPLOYEES

Operating locally also lets us create stable, rewarding jobs right here in Santa Clara. This means our customers are served by employees that know our city inside and out. So when you speak with an SVP team member on the phone, online, or in the community, you can feel confident that they are not only subject matter experts but Santa Clara experts. Learn more about some of our wonderful employees in our Meet Our Employees blog feature.

At Silicon Valley Power, we know that the local, not-for-profit utility structure we’ve had for more than 120 years is special and worth protecting. Cities around us that don’t have public power are starting to recognize its benefits and mimic parts of it. Some Bay Area cities are participating in Community Choice Aggregation (CCA), which procures power for a group of cities. This may better align power purchases with community interest in lowering carbon emissions, but infrastructure, programs, and customer service are still operated by an IOU. Only a community-owned and operated utility like Silicon Valley Power truly puts the power in the hands of the people and provides the full benefits of public power.

SVP Recognized for Superior Leadership

Over 120 years ago, our City established its municipal electric utility in order to provide DSC_0983.JPGstreet lighting in the growing city. Today, our commitment to Santa Clara includes not only affordable and reliable power, but also numerous innovative programs, an emphasis on community engagement and participation in the local and regional battle against climate change.

These attributes earned us an award from the Northwest Public Power Association (NWPPA). The Paul J. Raver Award, given for demonstrating superior leadership in the betterment of cities, states or regions, was presented to us on May 11, 2017 at the NWPPA Annual Meeting in Sunriver, OR.

This prestigious honor belongs to every one of our SVP employees. From our power resources and control room staff, to our line workers and engineers, and to our customer service representatives and community program managers, there is not one person here who did not contribute to winning this award.

According to NWPPA’s news release, “Silicon Valley Power has been committed to providing the community with highly reliable power at low rates and has worked hard to diversify its resources and continually invest in renewable energy to further reduce its carbon footprint.”

The association further cited SVP’s key role in forming the Northern California Power Agency (NCPA) in 1968, which organized similar municipal electric utilities in the state to allow them to buy electricity on the wholesale market. NCPA members also jointly developed cost-effective power generation resources for its members, resulting in lower rates than other utilities.

SVP still has the lowest system average rates in California among utilities with more than 5,000 customers, while remaining committed to doing so with a power mix that exceeds California’s Renewable Portfolio Standard.

SVP has had a lifetime of serving our community. Our policies, philosophy and programs are all geared to provide value to Santa Clara. And 120 years later, we still take care of the street lights.

Helping 3,000 small businesses lower their electric bills

SVP - CMUA RECS Award 2017Helping Santa Clara businesses improve their bottom line can be a satisfying experience for a municipal utility like ours. A healthy local economy benefits everyone in the community, and we are proud that we just won the Best Energy Program for a Large Municipal Electric Utility award from the California Municipal Utility Association (CMUA), which consists of 59 electric and water utilities.

The honor is for a program called the Small Business Snapshot Audit and Direct Install Program, which saved our small businesses about $300,000 in the fiscal year 2016-17. The name says exactly what we did: determine what energy efficiency upgrades or improvements could be made at over 3,000 Santa Clara business customer locations, and have a third-party contractor, Efficiency Services Group, handle the logistics and installation at no charge to our customers.

The program gave us the chance to offer a valuable service to those businesses that can benefit the most, plus it had a very positive economic impact in our City as customers saved up to several hundred dollars a month in electricity costs. Most of the improvements involved lighting upgrades, which give customers even more savings on an ongoing basis, since modern energy-efficient lights and fixtures require less maintenance and last longer than older technology.

The first-year energy savings alone added up to almost 2 million kilowatt-hours, which translates to preventing about 750,000 pounds of carbon from entering the atmosphere from power plants. We are thrilled to have organized such a successful program. We appreciate the recognition from the CMUA and continue to look for new opportunities to serve our customers and community.

Race, Run and Remote Chopper Spell Fun for Utility Engineer

A perfect weekend in the life of Billy Quach might be building and flying a remote control img_7563helicopter, doing a 10 kilometer trail run, and topping it off with a race against the clock on an auto-cross short course. It’s pretty clear that our Senior Electrical Utility Engineer has no problems keeping busy with his various hobbies and family in his off hours.

While on the job, Billy works with business customers to assure their electrical systems meet SVP standards. Getting to his current position was a logical progression after finishing his degree in Electrical Engineering from Santa Clara University in 2003. He earned separate masters degrees in Business Administration and Science Engineering in 2009 from San Jose State University and was a power engineering consultant at a private firm before joining SVP in 2014.

“I definitely wanted to be in a utility. I was very interested in working where I could directly impact customers, and evaluating customer-owned generating facilities is very important,” Quach said. “If a customer loses their power for any reason, that impacts the bottom line of their business.”

The Silver Creek High School (San Jose) alum also helps maintain and enhance our Power Quality Monitoring Systems. “Much of the work we do here has to do with reliability,” he said, adding that his job offers “a great work/life balance. The hours are predictable and there’s flexibility for family time if needed. I love spending time with my wife and two daughters.”

That balancing act juggles his engineering assignments with his hobbies and his family. Because another one of his many passions is photography, all the fun he refers to is probably very well documented.

Don’t Get Left in the Dark – Be Ready for Winter Power Outages

Mother Nature has a way of dealing us surprises in winter, and among the aces up her flashlight_blogsleeve are weather-related power outages. Although we aggressively trim tree limbs near power lines and work to maintain reliability throughout the City, outages do occur. Here are some tips on how to be prepared for a power outage and avoid serious inconvenience.

  • Check your emergency preparedness kit for flashlights and fresh batteries
  • Have ice packs or plastic containers of water in your freezer to place in your refrigerator or a cooler to help keep food cold during an extended outage
  • Keep canned food on hand and have a manual can opener available
  • Keep some cash handy to buy ice or other necessities in case stores in an outage area are unable to process credit or electronic transactions
  • Have a battery-operated radio
  • Have a backup charging method for your phone or other mobile device such as an inexpensive vehicle USB adapter, battery power pack or solar power pack
  • Do not run your vehicle in a garage or enclosed space, or close to your home, to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning
  • If you have an electric garage door opener, know where the manual release lever is located and test it before there is an outage
  • Surge protectors on your electronic equipment can guard against damage if a surge occurs when power is restored

Power outages are a fact of life during winter weather and we all should be prepared to safely cope with them. Fortunately, cell phones and other mobile devices that work without household power can give you access to websites and Twitter for information during a power outage or weather emergency.

More information on emergency preparedness and what to do during a power outage is available at www.ready.gov/power-outages and on our website. Updates during a widespread power outage are available by visiting us on Twitter or via our website.