Silicon Valley customers have access to cleaner power than CA or the U.S. average

July 9, 2019 – The Joint Venture Silicon Valley Institute for Regional Studies has released a comparative analysis of local sources of power by emissions intensity. Three community choice energy (CCE) programs now serve 89% of Silicon Valley’s residential customers, and 69% of non-residential customers. PG&E, which served 91% of customers across Santa Clara and San Mateo Counties in 2016 – now provides bundled energy, transmission, and distribution service to less than five percent.

“Nearly ninety percent of Silicon Valley’s energy customers are now purchasing their electricity from community choice energy programs,” said Rachel Massaro, Vice President & Director of Research at Joint Venture’s Institute for Regional Studies. “That transition happened in less than three years, and it effectively reduced the region’s overall carbon dioxide emissions from electricity by about 64%.”

Based upon the Center for Resource Solutions June 20 release of the 2019 Green-e® Residual Mix Emissions Rates, the Institute’s analysis illustrates the scale of emissions reductions associated with the procurement of 100% carbon-free power from renewable resources and hydroelectric power generation including solar and wind from within California and the western power grid. These energy sources – which are much cleaner than the traditional mix that includes coal, natural gas, and other sources of power – are a large and growing part of the portfolio of Silicon Valley’s energy providers such as PG&E, municipal utilities, and community choice energy programs.

Green-e® Energy is the leading certification program for voluntary renewable energy in North America. The 2019 Green-e® Residual Mix Emissions Rates are “greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions associated with untracked and unclaimed U.S.-based sources of electricity, based on location of consumption.” Essentially, the “residual mix” is what is leftover on the grid after all the Green-e® certified renewable energy credits that have been purchased—either alone or bundled with the power itself—are removed. These emissions rates are used to calculate the carbon dioxide (CO2) equivalent emissions associated with unspecified purchased or acquired electricity, classified as “Scope 2” emissions for carbon accounting purposes.

The Institute analysis illustrates the extent to which Silicon Valley’s electricity providers have lower emissions intensities than the “residual” CAMX region (which encompasses most of California), and the nation as a whole. As shown in the attached chart, all of the power provided to Silicon Valley electric customers carries a fraction of the emissions intensity of the U.S. grid average, and is significantly cleaner than California’s state average residual emissions intensity. PG&E sources power from hundreds of procurement contracts and has relatively clean energy with a 2017 emissions intensity factor that has declined by 67% over the past decade.

In Silicon Valley, all electricity consumers receive power sourced by either PG&E (an investor-owned utility), one of the two municipal utilities (Silicon Valley Power in the City of Santa Clara, or Palo Alto Utilities), or one of the locally-controlled public agencies sourcing clean electricity. These community choice energy options are relatively new to the region, and include Silicon Valley Clean Energy which serves 13 communities in Santa Clara County; Peninsula Clean Energy which serves 20 San Mateo County cities and the unincorporated portion of the county; and San Jose Clean Energy, the newest of the three, serving residents and businesses in San Jose since February of this year. The remaining Silicon Valley communities outside of the two counties are served by Monterey Bay Community Power (Scotts Valley) and East Bay Community Energy (Fremont and Union City); Newark opted out of joining the community choice energy program and thus remains served by PG&E.

According to Massaro, “The availability of clean electricity options locally is made possible, in large part, by the commitment of our communities and the leadership of our energy providers, in addition to the state’s role in advancing renewable energy and decreasing dependence on fossil fuels.”

Silicon Valley’s relatively clean electricity has enabled the implementation of a variety of “natural gas fuel-switching” efforts. These include programs that promote the use of heat pump water heaters, induction cooktops, and the exchange of multi-family gas wall furnaces with heat pump space heaters. It has also helped to advance electric vehicle adoption throughout the region. Additionally, efforts to promote “building decarbonization” are underway which illuminate the environmental, air-quality, and cost benefits of all-electric buildings.

DATA NOTES AND RESOURCES

  • The three locally-controlled public-agency electricity providers have served customers since October 2016 (Peninsula Clean Energy), April 2017 (Silicon Valley Clean Energy), and February 2019 (San Jose Clean Energy)
  • Palo Alto Utilities has provided 100% carbon-neutral electricity since 2013. The 2018 emissions intensity is negative because the City’s renewable energy projects throughout the state generated more than the City used that year. These generation assets added excess renewable energy, and thus the utility helped reduce the carbon footprint of the grid in addition to providing carbon neutral power to its customers.
  • Peninsula Clean Energy aims to be 100% GHG-free by 2021 and 100% renewable energy by 2025
  • 2017 Power Content Labels for each provider and Integrated Resource Plans (IPRs) for the municipal utilities are available on the California Energy Commission website
  • IRPs for the community choice energy providers are available on their websites: PCESVCESJCE
  • The emissions intensity factor for PG&E and other utilities are available through the Climate Registry

ELECTRIFICATION PROGRAMS

column chart
*estimate

2 pie charts
Notes: PG&E’s emissions factor is from The Climate Registry, and customer counts were from publicly available data on PG&E’s website; Other emissions intensities and customer counts were provided directly by Silicon Valley’s energy providers. Data Sources: Silicon Valley’s energy providers; The Climate Registry; Center for Resource Solutions; U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

Silicon Valley data include Santa Clara and San Mateo Counties. Additional Silicon Valley data is available in the 2019 Silicon Valley Index and at the Institute’s online data hub.

For more information on the Center for Resource Solutions’ 2019 Green-e® Residual Mix Emissions Rates, visit www.green-e.org/2019-residual-mix or contact .

For additional information on Silicon Valley’s local energy providers, please visit the following websites:

All images from Joint Venture Silicon Valley

Data Release: Power Emissions Intensity Comparisons, by Silicon Valley Institute for Regional Studies, Joint Venture Silicon Valley, July 9, 2019.

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