SMUD’s new president outlines 2020 to-do list
By Rob Kerth
My six colleagues on the Sacramento Municipal Utility District board have afforded me quite an honor. They have elected me board president for 2020, and I officially take that post on Thursday, Jan. 16.
The board has learned that this is what the public most wants from SMUD, and the 2,300 people who work at SMUD are dedicated to making this happen.
The details of delivering these three core items are daunting. To keep things on track for you, the board depends on a great general manager. SMUD has enjoyed the leadership of a string of strong, and occasionally colorful, general managers. Our current general manager, Arlen Orchard, is retiring after years of wonderful service to the organization. The most important thing the board will do this year is select a replacement.
Watch for SMUD to stay the course on greenhouse gas reduction. Even though the United Nations is dawdling on adopting its year 2050 carbon neutral plan, the Trump administration is withdrawing the U.S. from the Paris climate treaty and California is straining with its 2045 plan, SMUD is ahead of schedule on its 2040 plan, years ahead of other utilities. In 2020, two new solar farms will switch on and SMUD’s wind farm upgrades will start. Together, these projects will provide “green” power about 80,000 homes.
As an engineer, I can’t pass up the chance to mention wires and transformers. SMUD will deliver capital improvements throughout Sacramento County to assure reliable delivery. Substations in central Sacramento, supply to south Folsom, a hydroelectric power tunnel improvement, a transmission line upgrade in the Pocket, and reconductoring (SMUD-speak for new wires) for economic development in older places are just the start of the list.
SMUD is in the midst of a good controversy about a reasonable level of subsidy for new, privately owned, solar panel installations. To help jump start the solar industry, California required SMUD customers to heavily subsidize rooftop solar. The plan worked. Solar power is now plentiful, and the cost is dropping fast. To be fair to all our customers, it is time to dial back the subsidy on new installations so we can buy even more, cheaper solar. The solar installers are alarmed about losing this cash. You will hear more about this, much more, as SMUD wraps up a year-long study of the public value of privately owned solar.
This coming year will also see SMUD engaged in programs to help customers save energy, rearrange their power consumption to save money and make the switch from gas to electric appliances and vehicles. Don’t miss out on this. Look to smud.org for more information.
No agenda would be complete without this: Voters carved SMUD out of PG&E territory more than 70 years ago because they wanted less costly, more reliable power. Today SMUD is one of the country’s top-rated utilities. Without SMUD, Sacramento County residents would pay PG&E an extra $700 million a year for electricity. If my agenda for 2020 works, this number will grow, like it has for more than 70 years.