SN&R sits down with SMUD’s Chief Zero Carbon Officer to discuss Sacramento’s future

Photograph by Stephen Leonardi

Lora Anguay was born and raised in Sacramento. She was hired at SMUD in 2004 and worked in several capacities, including project manager for the utility’s Smart Grid Distribution Automation. In June 2021, Anguay became SMUD’s Chief Zero Carbon Officer. SN&R publisher Jeff vonKaenel recently interviewed her about how Sacramento can get to a cleaner energy horizon.

Lora Anguay

SN&R: Lora, tell me a little bit about yourself, your background and how you got this position.

I have had many positions at SMUD and I’m really excited about this one because it presents the opportunity to give back to the community in a meaningful way that changes the trajectory of people’s lives. We’re talking about workforce development and job opportunities.

SN&R: Tell me some of the goals and objectives of SMUD’s 2030 plan.

Our goal is to increase local jobs through clean energy technologies, improve local air quality, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. And strengthen and create sustainable communities.

First, we need to focus on transitioning our thermal plants. Our goal is to retire two of the five thermal plants that we have and to re-imagine the remaining three plants. At this point in time, we’re not quite sure what the answer is, so we’re looking at biofuels and hydrogen for those remaining three plants. We’ll also replace the energy through the use of solar and wind and other proven clean technologies that are available today.

We’re looking at long duration energy storage. Part of that is leveraging our hydro facilities. We have our Upper American River Project that includes our reservoirs and our damns for generating  hydroelectricity. We’re looking at possibly having pumped storage—using our existing facilities and being able to run a system backwards at night when you’ve got wind cheap and available. So that way, the water and the electricity is available during the day when it’s needed. That’s our recycling of the water system as well. In addition to that, we’re looking at partnering with our customers to offer programs where we incentivize the purchase of batteries in exchange for us to be able to have some control over the batteries and dispatching that (power) back onto the system.

SN&R: How do you intend to work with the customers in the implementation? How do both your residential and commercial customers work with you on the 2030 Plan?

We’re looking to partner with our customers to reduce peak energy usage and to enable some of our load flexibility programs. For example, we saw a huge reduction in peak usage with the time-of-day rates that we rolled out. So those are the types of things that we’re looking for from our customers.

SN&R: What is the expected cost increase in this and what is SMUD doing to mitigate that?

The cleaner energy does have a higher financial price tag. Our initial high-level estimate does show that we are going to spend significant money in order to get to 2030. But what we have committed to is limiting rate increases at or below CPI or inflation. We intend to do this by creating business opportunities and through business partnerships as we roll out new clean technologies.

SN&R: One of SMUD’s goals is to work on sustainable communities—making sure we have a clean environment but also knowing the impact that increased energy will have. What is SMUD doing in that regard?

We have a team working on the sustainable communities strategy right now. We’re looking at having that done in the next couple months—in terms of what program we will have available for those communities. I think another interesting point, though, is the workforce development piece. As we are rolling out projects and programs, part of our contract goals…is to make sure that there is a component for local workforce development.

SN&R: There’s been a lot of discussion about the rooftop solar program. I want to talk about how the solar program fits into the 2030 plan.

The solar is a key component of our plan. We anticipate being able to serve our customers with 1/3 of our energy coming from solar. Historically, we were incentivizing solar to build up that industry in our areas and now, because of the success of the programs, at times we have more solar coming back onto the system than we actually need. So we’re switching to incentivizing storage so that we can store the excess energy and reuse it during times of need.

As the nonprofit utility, we need to ensure that we’re cost-effective for all of our customers. That means making sure that we are financially responsible for the money that we are receiving on behalf of our customers.

SN&R: Is there anything that you would like to add?

We’re getting ready to launch our storage-based virtual power plant pilot. In this pilot, we’re looking to incentivize behind the meter batteries. We’re compensating customers for us to be able to dispatch those batteries. We would provide an upfront incentive for purchase of the battery in exchange for participation in the program, and again, during events, providing compensation for  participation during those events. It’s going to be available to both residential and commercial customers. I think that it brings a high level of value to SMUD and to our customers. As you start to think about energy conservation or load flexibility, this allows customers to shift their load without actually impacting their lifestyle or their operations. Because instead of reducing energy consumption or shifting their energy usage, they’re using stored energy.

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About the Author

Jeff vonKaenel
Jeff vonKaenel is the president, CEO and majority owner of the News & Review newspapers in Sacramento, Chico and Reno.

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