A renewable energy resource is a power source that can be replenished by natural sources that are readily available, such as photovoltaic solar panels or wind generation. Carbon-free sources are sources that do not generate any carbon emissions into the atmosphere when producing electric power such as hydroelectric generation. In terms of reaching renewable and carbon-free goals, Silicon Valley Clean Energy follows state definitions and guidelines for the difference between renewable and carbon-free.
Electric generation from renewable energy facilities produces two products: 1) the actual electricity produced by the facility and 2) the renewable attributes of that generation known as renewable energy certificates, or RECs. These renewable attributes can be sold separately (“unbundled”) from the electricity produced or as a package and “retired” to the purchaser of the renewable electricity. A REC can be created only if the renewable electricity was produced, and only one certificate may be issued for each unit of renewable energy produced.
SVCE has short and long-term contracts with a variety of power suppliers to meet the energy needs of our customers. To explore the map and learn more about thebillions invested by Silicon Valley Clean Energy in renewable wind, solar+storage and geothermal projects to provide electricity to our customers visit: svcleanenergy.org/power-sources.
To inform customers and comply with state requirements, SVCE provides an annual power content label that outlines the mix of electricity purchased for customers. Check out the power content label at: svcleanenergy.org/plans-policies-reports/#power-content-label.
SVCE sources its energy from many different renewable and clean generators to meet the total annual demand of all its customers. These generators are required by state law to identify their resources and file a detailed report on the content of their generated power. SVCE is required to report to the California Public Utilities Commission and California Energy Commission on an annual basis to verify the amount of renewable energy procured for our customers. This is the same standard used by other California utilities, such as PG&E, for verification purposes.
In addition, SVCE is investing in new renewable development. Learn more about these renewable energy projects at svcleanenergy.org/power-sources.
There are many different methods to produce electricity which use different types of resources. These resources vary in their carbon-emitting properties and whether they release greenhouse gases, which are the main culprit of climate change.
Resources such as wind, solar, hydro and nuclear, do not produce carbon pollution and are considered ‘carbon free’, and the electricity generated from these resources is considered carbon-free energy.
As a result of the 2018 Power Charge Indifference Adjustment proceeding, the California Public Utilities Commission directed PG&E to allocate carbon-free attributes from its hydropower and nuclear energy sources at no additional cost to CCAs.
For more than a year, the SVCE Board of Directors discussed whether to accept the allocation during six public meetings from Sept. 2019 to Oct. 2020.
Accepting an allocation of carbon-free attributes from PG&E, generated by the Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant, benefits SVCE and our customers in the following ways:
- Our customers are already paying for it.
- This is a prudent financial decision since failure to accept the allocations unfairly credits PG&E for resources paid for by SVCE customers through utility exit fees. If we do not take the allocation and want to instead of procuring carbon-free attributes on the open market, we will pay double for this portion of our power.
- It is a carbon-free energy resource.
- It will not lead to building new nuclear or keeping Diablo Canyon open longer – the facility is being retired in 2025.
- The allocation will help us cost-effectively meet our overall carbon-free objectives until we have our longer-term resources built.
- It saves our customers money.
- SVCE saved $600,000 in 2020 and $1.9M in 2021.
- The cost savings from the nuclear allocation have been directed to specific SVCE customer offers and services, such as community decarbonization grants.
SVCE procures clean energy from renewable and clean sources to meet the total annual demand of our customers. This follows the energy industry standard of emissions accounting on an annual basis. The SVCE generation mix, and emissions are reported through the California Energy Commission Power Source Disclosure Program’s Power Content Label (PCL).
The PCL shows a percentage breakdown of renewable energy content and all other sources that make up the annual supply of energy SVCE schedules onto the grid to serve customers. The PCL is sent out to customers each fall showing the prior year’s power mix. The PCL comes with its own set of accounting rules that have been mandated through legislation, AB 1110, which created the first statewide standard for emissions reporting.
The emissions associated with the SVCE GreenStart base product comes from energy generated from existing geothermal plants. Geothermal power is a renewable resource that utilizes the heat below the earth’s surface to turn turbines that generate electricity. Geothermal has the benefit of being a baseload resource, meaning it produces clean energy 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. In addition, the newly operational Casa Diablo IV geothermal plant that SVCE has contracted with is a binary-cycle, closed-loop plant that has zero emissions.
Geothermal and biomass are renewable generation resources that are not also considered carbon-free resources. Geothermal (except binary geothermal) and biomass resources have emissions associated with their fuel source that is registered with the California Air Resources Board and U.S. Energy Information Administration.
Each geothermal and biomass resource has its own individual emissions factor that is used to calculate emissions from specific plants. These resources have varying (higher or lower) emissions factors based on the fuel source and technology type.
There are three types of geothermal generation – dry steam, flash steam, and binary cycle. Most geothermal plants in operation today are flash steam, which produces some emissions from the fluid extracted from the earth that contains naturally occurring carbon dioxide (CO2) and other gases and minerals. According to the US Department of Energy, geothermal energy produces one-sixth the CO2 of a natural gas plant.
Biomass electricity is made from combusting organic matter, or capturing and utilizing gases from decomposing organic waste that would otherwise end up in the atmosphere. Biomass facilities have different fuel sources, such as wood, agricultural waste, or landfill gas. Some accounting rules consider biomass, depending on the fuel source, carbon neutral as the plants pulled CO2 out of the atmosphere when they were growing. Learn more about biomass.
SVCE customers have had the option of upgrading to the GreenPrime 100% renewable product which is Green-e® Energy certified, and meets the environmental and consumer-protection standards set forth by the nonprofit Center for Resource Solutions. However, due to market constraints, such as high prices and lack of supply for renewable projects that meet the certification guidelines, five percent of the GreenPrime product in 2022 was purchased from renewable facilities not tied to the specific delivery of power for SVCE customers. The state emission accounting rules treat this power as an unspecified source and apply average grid emissions to it. GreenPrime is currently closed to new enrollment amidst these current market challenges. SVCE is evaluating future, additional clean energy offerings for customers.