Electricity sources across Truckee and North Tahoe form a patchwork quilt: In Truckee and Incline Village, NV Energy provides power; on Donner Summit, it’s PG&E; and on the North Shore, Liberty Utilities holds reign. Power outages in recent years have become more commonplace and thus readers have asked why the region doesn’t strive to be more energy independent. In our quest to find out why electrical power is provided through these larger companies, and not generated locally, we reached out to the Truckee Donner Public Utility District, the only local agency that provides maintenance and operations for its electric distribution system.
Why does the Truckee Donner Public Utility District not generate power locally, instead remaining dependent on NV Energy for electricity?
TDPUD generates some power locally primarily through our successful roof-top solar programs and hydroelectric electricity generated at Stampede Reservoir. This local generation, however, represents only a small fraction of the community’s needs.
The most cost-effective, efficient, and reliable electric resources are generated at a very large scale, require extensive land and infrastructure, and leverage the national transmission grid. TDPUD is a member of the Utah Associated Municipal Power Systems (UAMPS), which is a group of over 50 community-owned electric utilities in the western U.S that by working together can provide a diverse portfolio of energy resources at a significant cost reduction. Local generation in Truckee of any scale would require tremendous initial capital investments as well as sizeable commitments in land and local resources. Negative noise, traffic, and visual impacts to the community could be significant.
TDPUD’s 2021–2024 strategic plan includes two initiatives to explore additional energy resources to further TDPUD’s 100% clean, renewable energy goals and local energy resiliency. TDPUD has been collaborating with local partners to explore local generation, including biomass, community solar, and battery storage. One exciting opportunity is a partnership with the Town of Truckee, Truckee Fire Protection District, and Truckee Tahoe Airport District to explore the feasibility of a local biomass project. While this project could address numerous community concerns regarding local green waste management, wildfire mitigation, and forest health, the largest power generation being considered (approximately 1 megawatt) would generate less than 3% of TDPUD’s peak load and could only serve a small number of facilities adjacent to the plant during a power outage.
TDPUD continues to balance rates, renewables, reliability, and resiliency in serving our customers. Local generation can play an important role in a balanced electric resource portfolio but if costs, access to carbon-free resources, and reliability matter to you, then we are fortunate to have access to larger markets through transmission by NV Energy.
~ Steven Poncelet, TDPUD public information and strategic affairs director