Making a difference at the local level

Growing up in the eastern Sierra, DeAnna Hilbrants spent a lot of time outside. Whether IMG_2702Edithiking, riding bikes or raising animals, including sheep and pigs to auction at the local fair, DeAnna developed a taste for adventure and business early.

Today, in her role as Assistant Director of Business Services here at Silicon Valley Power, DeAnna approaches her work in procurement and finance with that same sense of discovery. “The high volume of contracts Silicon Valley Power manages is impressive — nothing short of a logistical feat in constant motion,” she says. She is excited to be using technology to improve administrative processes and help processes work more effectively.

DeAnna has experience driving change in city government and has served in key leadership roles in several municipalities across Northern California, including Millbrae, Sonoma and Monterey County. She is proud to have led special projects that directly improved people’s lives, including a regional public safety radio replacement project and the design, funding and insurance settlement for a recreation center to replace a community center destroyed by arson. In 2013, DeAnna was awarded the Rising Star Award from the Municipal Management Association of Northern California for her accomplishments.

Since joining our team, DeAnna has enjoyed this same on-the-ground feeling of making a difference at the local level. Her work allows her to help shape some of the most important issues facing the community when it comes to energy and sustainability.

When not in the office, DeAnna can be found in a book, biking outside or in one of several hip-hop classes. She enjoys traveling and is always planning her next trip to a national park or forest. Most of all, DeAnna loves hiking on remote mountain trails. Her favorite is at Lake McLeod in the Inyo National Forest, a glacier lake found on a short trail starting at  an elevation of about 9,000 feet. It’s a great conditioner for a longer hike after normal life at sea level.

Helping Small Businesses Impacted by COVID-19 through Energy Efficiency Grants

We understand our customers have been impacted by COVID-19 in various ways and we Small Business Grant HVAC Imageare doing what we can to help. In an effort to reduce electric bills for small businesses in Santa Clara, we are offering grants to provide funding for energy efficiency upgrades. These upgrades will help lower business operating costs by reducing electric consumption and may also have other non-energy benefits, such as reduced maintenance costs, better quality lighting and better equipment performance.

Our energy engineers are available to help businesses identify qualifying measures that will have the most impact on reducing their electric bills. We’ve also provided program training to our Trade Ally contractors so they can work with customers to implement projects. Energy efficiency projects that save electric energy may be eligible. Typical projects include lighting, HVAC, HVAC controls, and food service equipment upgrades. Up to $10,000 is available for eligible businesses, with 100% funding for businesses that have been deemed as non-essential under the County of Santa Clara Public Health Department order dated March 16, 2020. For businesses that have been deemed essential, 10% of the project cost must be paid for by the business.

The program aims to provide up to $1 million in grants to eligible customers. Application pre-approval is on a first come, first served basis. If you own or run a small business in Santa Clara, there has never been a better time to look at energy efficiency upgrades! For complete program details, including eligibility requirements and the application process, please visit siliconvalleypower.com/businesses/rebates.

Investing in our Energy Future through Scholarships

At the Santa Clara City Council meeting on Tuesday, July 14, our Chief Electric Utility Officer Manuel Pineda awarded three outstanding students each with a $5,000 scholarship to further their studies toward a career in the energy industry. For the past 15 years, we have offered scholarships for students attending college or technical school in pursuit of a career in the energy industry. We have granted $237,000 in scholarships to date and 51 deserving students in the Santa Clara community have benefited from this program.

Ryota Inagaki, a Santa Clara High School graduate, is studying Engineering Mathematics and Statistics at the University of California, Berkeley.  His studies are focused on the physics and math behind electrical engineering and he is fascinated with research on mathematical modeling. In his future career, he plans to apply these skills to the power industry.

Vincent Kloes recently graduated from Wilcox High School and will be studying Earth Science at the University of Virginia, Charlottesville this fall.  Vincent says he plans to “conduct research on terrestrial energy sources that can satisfy the global demand for energy while maintaining renewability.”  He feels it’s important to understand all aspects of energy demand, including not only the science behind energy, but also the economic and political aspects, so he can contribute to the development of future energy sources.

Santa Clara resident Serena Kutney recently completed her junior year at the University of California, Davis.  She found her passion for chemical engineering while taking an environmental science class during her senior year in high school.  That class spurred her interest in energy and the environment and led to her interest in pursuing a degree in Chemical Engineering.  As an engineering student, she says she is “developing skills that will enable her to create sustainable energy solutions to improve current industry practices.” This course of study has afforded her the opportunity to participate in research of potential new biosource fuel options.

We believe in the importance of investing in the future workforce of our electric industry. Supporting students to achieve their career goals through this scholarship program is one of several ways we are able to support our community and the energy industry. Applications for the 2020 scholarship program will be available in October.

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.

Silicon Valley Power recognized as a top utility in reliability

Safety and reliability are always our highest priorities. Our success in these two key RP3 Award 2019areas was recently recognized when we were designated as a Reliable Public Power Provider (RP3) at the Gold Level by the American Public Power Association during the Association’s annual Engineering & Operations Conference. This designation, which lasts for three years, acknowledges public power utilities that excel in four major areas of operation: reliability, safety, workforce development and system improvement. It is a high honor that reflects our continued commitment to our customers and employees, as well as our leadership in the Santa Clara community.

We are proud to have earned our place as a top-tier public power utility. We will continue to strive for the same standard of excellence in all areas of our organization. To further this mission, we recently developed our 2018 Strategic Plan. With help from our community, customers, City Council and City executive leadership, we outlined our objectives for the next 10 years. The plan paves the way for our team to continue providing safe, reliable service to our customers. It will also guide us as we develop innovative and sustainable solutions to any challenges we may face. Our Strategic Plan will enable the growth we need to continue standing out as a top-tier public power entity.

 

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!

Providing Mutual Aid for the Carr Fire

On Sunday, ten of our field crew members headed to Redding with two digger derricks, two bucket trucks, a 4×4 crew truck, and two foreman trucks to provide mutual aid to the Redding Electric Utility (REU) in response to the Carr Fire. They will spend the next 10-14 days assisting the REU crews in rebuilding the damaged electric distribution system, working 16 hour days to accomplish repairs as quickly as they safely can. We are proud to be supporting our fellow public power utility, and appreciate the mutual aid arrangements that can help utilities to rebuild after a natural disaster.

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These devices may be quietly driving up your home’s energy use

Dish Space HeaterDo you know which systems and appliances in your home use the most electricity? Many people might guess that their heating and cooling systems are the biggest energy users – and for years, that was true. However, the digital revolution means that plug-in appliances are playing an increasing role in the typical home’s energy consumption. We often see three common electrical appliances that can unexpectedly raise customers’ energy use.

Gaming consoles and DVRs seem harmless, but they tend to use much more energy than customers realize. This is not only because consumers are acquiring more entertainment devices, but also because those devices are plugged in all the time, sucking out “vampire power” even when not in use. We advise customers to unplug their devices when not in use, turn to a low power mode, or consider investing in a smart power strip.

While their warmth might be great on a cold winter day, space heaters can heat up your electricity bill if used extensively. Some of our customers use multiple space heaters to heat their whole homes all day long. Others continue to use their space heaters after their circuit breakers trip (i.e., outlets shut off). This is not an ideal way to heat your home. First, if your circuit breakers trip while using a space heater, your electrical system has overloaded and automatically shuts off to prevent a fire. Second, central heating is the most efficient and economical way to heat a large space or your whole home. We recommend only using one space heater at a time and using it to warm up a small space for a short period (one – two hours a day). To find the best space heater for your needs, check our Space Heater Guide and entertaining Space Heater Video.

Another appliance that may be using more energy than you’d think is your second fridgeKill-a-Watt electric consumption meter or supplemental freezer. Having that extra cold storage in the garage for extra beverages might be great for entertaining, but be smart and consider unplugging it during off-seasons or between holidays.

Interested in learning more about how your home is using electricity? Sign up for our free, in-home energy audit or borrow a Kill-A-Watt meter from our free Tool Lending Library.

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.

Your local power grid – an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure

No one likes an unexpected surprise like a car breakdown or a heater that suddenly stops working. That’s why most of us do preventative maintenance on our cars and home. It’s the same logic and due diligence that we apply when we perform inspections on our equipment and repair or replace items like power poles when needed.

Many of our power poles and cross arms have held up for more than 40 years, but it’s time to be sure they remain up to the job of reliably carrying electricity to our customers. We’ve contracted with Osmose Utilities Services to perform inspections on all of our power poles over the next five years to improve reliability and perform preventative maintenance.

Customers affected by this important effort are being notified by letter several weeks prior to work in their area. In some cases Osmose will need to access backyards to perform the inspection. We know privacy is very important, so as a courtesy Osmose will first knock on the door to let you know they need to enter your property. If no one answers the door, Osmose will enter the backyard and perform the power pole inspection. If the gate is locked and inspectors cannot access the power pole, they’ll leave a door hanger asking for you to contact SVP with a time to complete the inspection.

Working hours are 7:00 AM to 7:00 PM, Monday through Friday and each inspection can take 20-40 minutes. Residents may also see SVP crews in neighborhoods for Saturday appointments. Osmose inspectors will have identification indicating they are a contractor for the City of Santa Clara. It’s always a good idea to ask to see the ID, or call us if you are unsure.

We‘re doing everything possible to minimize the impact of this critical maintenance work and we apologize in advance for any inconvenience this might cause. Customers with questions or concerns are welcome to contact us at (408) 244-7283.

This work increases the reliability of your power. As with a car or a home, we feel that it is wise to inspect, maintain and/or repair equipment rather than wait until there’s a problem that could have been prevented.