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.

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Bike to work for a day, a week, a month!

Riding a bike to work can be great fun, and it’s good for you! The month of May is Bike to Work Month, highlighted by Bike to Work Day on Thursday, May 11, and we’ll be hosting our energizer station for Bike to Work Day again this year. Plan your route, then stop by and say hi if you’re riding down El Camino Real near the Caltrain station, across from Santa Clara University. Under the Silicon Valley Power tent, we’ll have snacks, a tote bag, goodies, and lots of encouragement for you.

Biking isn’t only good for the environment, but also a great way to get some fresh air, exercise, and ditch the commute traffic! The Silicon Valley Bicycle Coalition points out that almost 40 percent of commuters in the Bay Area live within five miles of work, a distance perfectly possible even for inexperienced bicyclists. Since we all want to reduce our carbon footprint, it’s interesting to know that if these commuters rode bikes instead of driving to work, it would take more than 60,000 vehicles off the road, reducing tailpipe emissions by more than 150,000 pounds.

If you have a longer commute, mix in some public transit. VTA buses and Caltrain can accommodate bikes (and their riders) and some stations have bike lockers too.

Head to Bike Silicon Valley for information and resources – and remember that helmet and sunscreen!

Keep Your Home Safe With These Electrical Safety Tips

May is National Electrical Safety Month, and it’s a great time to take a look around your home to eliminate any potential hazards to you, our family or your home from faulty or overloaded electrical outlets and devices. A few simple precautions can mean a world of difference. For instance:

  • Smoke marks on outlet covers or a burning odor are the warning signs of potential trouble.
  • Use a good surge protector to minimize risk. It will trip and cut power to a circuit if it becomes overloaded.
  • Never staple or use nails or tacks to attach electrical cords to a wall or baseboards.
  • Locate your circuit breaker and switch the power off before starting an electrical job.

The Electrical Safety Foundation International (ESFI) has more tips for making your home safe, and you can watch a fun video we made to remind you about home safety and electricity.

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.

Marriott Scores Big Energy Savings With Guestroom HVAC Upgrade

Some hotels are taking a big step forward in making sure rooms are comfortable when you arrive and during your stay by installing automated control systems that adapt to occupancy and respond with the appropriate level of heating or cooling. Hotel staff can also remotely prepare a room for an arriving guest, and shut down systems when the room becomes vacant. Sensors can indicate if a room is occupied or empty, which can be especially valuable when it allows the hotel to turn off the energy-hungry heat or air conditioning when guests are out.

The Santa Clara Marriott Hotel is one property that has embraced the new technology, retrofitting the pre-existing air conditioning equipment in rooms to disable the factory built-in controls so that the units can be controlled through the Wi-Fi and sensor enabled thermostats. Guests can still personally choose their level of comfort using in-room thermostats.

The project was completed in August 2016 and meets a Marriott policy to implement one signature environmental improvement a year at each of its hotels. Comfort is just one of the benefits. Dave Mason, the director of engineering for the Marriott, says upgrading 759 guest room thermostat controls will save the property 230,000 kilowatt-hours of electricity a year. The energy efficiency upgrade also will also prevent 55 metric tons of carbon pollution from entering the atmosphere annually.

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“I was particularly interested in this project because it improves the overall guest experience and saves valuable resources,” Dave Mason said, adding that those savings plus the rebate from Silicon Valley Power will allow the hotel to recoup the $346,000 project cost in less than seven years. The energy efficiency upgrade also will also prevent 55 metric tons of carbon pollution from entering the atmosphere annually.

“I would definitely use the word ‘partnership’ to describe our work with SVP,” said Mason. “It only took about eight weeks to complete the project once we had a green light.”

We love working with customers like Dave Mason and the Santa Clara Marriott to improve energy efficiency at their facilities, and the project is even more rewarding when it benefits their guests with improved comfort!

Serving on Navy Fast-Attack Sub Leads to Career at SVP

Submerged on a U.S. Navy submarine for two straight months probably strengthened tim_lynch_archeryevery sense of teamwork and duty for Tim Lynch. Our Electric Program Manager calls his service as a nuclear engineer aboard a fast-attack sub as the one of the most memorable events of his life.

“There is no bond stronger than the one made by a team that strives for the highest quality of work in its entirety,” says the Wilcox High School graduate who served in the U.S. Navy Submarine Service until 2000.

After his naval career, Tim entered the semiconductor industry where he provided global support for plasma reactors. He followed his interests to move into the hard drive and robotics industry before settling into cyber security with Milton Security, a company that works with SVP and other utilities to protect their systems. SVP hired him full time in 2015.

IT project management for the utility is among his responsibilities. “We have a great group of professionals. My team and I are a little like the Swiss army knife for the Electric Department. We provide technology solutions and help out the division managers who oversee all the tasks associated with our local grid. I enjoy it because every day is different.”

Tim recently took over Santa Clara’s advanced meter program (SVP MeterConnect®), a meter technology that will allow customers to view their hourly electricity usage and make adjustments that can save them energy and money. Separate from the metering technology, SVP MeterConnect also provides the free outdoor citywide Wi-Fi in the City.

When he’s not leading the IT efforts here, Tim enjoys spending time with his wife and four children, who range in age from toddler to teenager.

“It’s really fun to hang out with each kid and watch them go through all the phases of their development. We do a lot of things together, like Irish Dance, archery, and camping.”

One other thing the children enjoy is learning about Tim’s submarine service in the Navy, and how that started a career path that led him here to us at SVP.

Warming Up Safely With a Space Heater

space-heaterSometimes it makes sense to warm up just a small area like an office or bedroom rather than turn on your central heating system. Portable, or room, heaters can effectively and efficiently heat smaller areas of a home or business.

You’ll want to remember that space heaters, even though small, use a significant amount of electricity. With a typical 1500-watt unit, for instance, it will cost you about 16 cents per hour. That doesn’t sound like much, but if you leave a portable heater on for several hours a day or use multiple heaters, it adds up. Smart use of a space heater can save you money compared to using central heating, but being cautious about extended use is important.

Here are some tips on how to manage electricity costs if you use a space heater:

  • Remember to turn it off when you leave the room.
  • Select the right space heater for the situation. Check out our Space Heater Guide to identify what type of heater is best for you.
  • Space heaters work best in smaller rooms that are closed off to the rest of your home. An open door will quickly reduce the effectiveness of the heater.
  • If you’re using multiple space heaters for more than a few hours it may be more cost effective to use your central heating, which is the most efficient way to heat your entire house.
  • Since space heaters use a lot of electricity, multiple heaters on the same circuit can trip a circuit breaker.
  • The higher wattage of these units exceeds the capabilities of most extension cords, creating a fire hazard. Plug your space heater directly into an outlet.

The U.S. Department of Energy also provides some good tips on space heater safety and what to look for when making a purchase.

Meanwhile, putting on a sweater or sweatshirt instead of using that space heater could save you a dollar a day or more. For a little entertainment and a few tips, check out our video comparing three different types of space heaters.

Keep Shocks and Fires Out of Your Holiday Plans

The winter holidays are prime time for home fires and electrical shocks, leading to property damage, burns, or worse. Fortunately, you can avoid many potential home mishaps with some care and attention while working your holiday decorating magic in your home.

Many of the basic electrical threats in the home such as overloaded circuits and extension cord safety were covered in our post on home safety. During the holidays we tend to bring out extra extension cords, indoor and outdoor light strands, power strips and timers. While candles are by far the most dangerous holiday decorations, aged electrical equipment also causes danger. The Electrical Fire Safety Foundation (EFSF) has tips on keeping your holidays safe. Here are some key points:

  • Inspect all extension and lighting cords for damage such as frayed cords or exposed wires.
  • Don’t use electrical ornaments or light strings on artificial trees with metallic leaves or branch coverings.
  • Unlike incandescent bulbs, which generate most of their energy in heat, LEDs are cool to the touch—which also indicates greater energy-efficiency.
  • LEDs are made with epoxy lenses, not glass and are much more durable.
  • When hanging lights outdoors, use a wooden or fiberglass ladder.
  • Turn off all indoor and outdoor holiday lighting before leaving the house or going to bed.
  • Never drape anything over a light bulb or lampshade, even if using LEDs.

While it is unlikely that your tree will catch fire, the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA.org) notes that electrical distribution or lighting equipment was involved in 38% of home Christmas tree fires. The results of a tree fire can be devastating, as dramatically shown in their video.

It’s worth the few minutes it takes to check on the condition of your electric decorations and make sure flammable materials are far removed from heat sources such as candles and heaters. We all want to keep the “Happy” in Happy Holidays!

Brighten Up the Holidays With Cool Energy Savings!

Bright decorations, great food and good company make the winter holidays festive and special. Keeping your energy costs under control with just a little bit of effort can bring youholiday-tree-with-leds-with-logo even more holiday cheer.

ENERGY STAR® rated LED light strings offer a wide variety of lighting options while using 70 percent less electricity than the old incandescent light bulbs. New bulbs are brighter, safer and last 10 times longer than the old lights. Plus they come in many different colors, including different shades of white. Check out our short video on holiday LED lights or visit our website for more holiday LED light info, as well as other tips on how to save energy all year long.

There are also some good tips on energy efficiency from the California Energy Commission (CEC) Consumer Energy Center, including how you can cut back energy waste in the kitchen during the hectic holidays. For instance:

  • Opening the oven door for a peek at what’s cooking lowers the oven temperature by as much as 25 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Cook several items at the same time, leaving space around each casserole or pie plate to allow heat to be distributed evenly.
  • Use convection settings if available to distribute heat evenly and shorten cooking times.
  • Match the size of your stovetop burner to the size of the pan you’re using. Up to 40 percent of the heat is wasted if you put a six-inch pan on an eight-inch burner.
  • Consider other ways to cook some holiday dishes, such as the microwave oven, a slow cooker or an electric skillet, all of which can be more energy-efficient than your oven or stovetop for cooking certain foods.
  • Opening the refrigerator door and leaving it open for a minute while you remove several items is more energy efficient than opening and closing it several times.

These useful tips can help you light up your house and deck the halls for your holiday festivities while saving you money on your electric bill.

A Great Investment: Scholarships and Grants for Aspiring Santa Clara Students

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2016 recipient Miles Wolf

We all know the good feeling that a wise investment gives us, especially when it’s for a worthy cause that benefits the community. That’s how we feel about our SVP Scholarship Program, which awards college scholarships and trade school tuition grants to some of the most promising students in Santa Clara who aspire to be professionals in a field associated with the electric utility industry.

We’re accepting applications until December 15, 2016 from qualified students living or going to school in Santa Clara who will be attending college or a trade school in the 2017-2018 school year.

College scholarships of $5,000 and technical school grants of $2,000 are available. Winners, who will be announced in May 2017, have the chance to join previous SVP Scholarship Award program awardees like these:

  • Miles Wolf is a 2016 Wilcox High School graduate attending the University of California-Santa Barbara to pursue degrees in electrical engineering and environmental science with help from a $5,000 SVP scholarship.
  • Mission College student and 2016 scholarship winner Andres Cuenca is studying civil engineering, which plays a critical role in the construction of electric generation facilities.
  • Christopher Blancett received a $2,000 Technical Grant in 2013 to support his studies at the Institute of Business and Technology (IBT) related to solar power as he prepared for a career in the electrical trade.
  • Mark Wagner graduated from Santa Clara University (SCU) and worked toward a master’s degree in mechanical engineering with help from a 2009 grant from SVP. He researched solar powered refrigeration for use in remote areas.
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2009 Recipient Mark Wagner

Applicants planning to study energy services, electric utilities, fields associated with electricity or the power industry in general may download the 2016-2017 application or get more information by calling 408.615.6604. Completed application packets must arrive at our City Hall offices by 5:00 p.m. on Thursday, December 15, 2016.

We certainly look forward to investing again in some of our community’s brightest academic stars!