Utilities News

City of Palo Alto Utilities Awarded Public Power Utility of the Year

City of Palo Alto Utilities Awarded Public Power Utility of the Year

Palo Alto's Municipal Utility Takes Solar Energy Mainstream in Drive for 100% Carbon-Free Electric Supply

View the press release here. 

Palo Alto, CA, Oct. 21, 2014 – The Solar Electric Power Association (SEPA), an educational nonprofit organization focused on helping utilities integrate solar electric power into their energy portfolios, today named the City of Palo Alto Utilities as Public Power Utility of the Year. The award was announced during SEPA’s awards luncheon at the Solar Power International conference in Las Vegas.

"Palo Alto Utilities walks the talk of community focus through its customer-friendly menu of solar services and tariffs which collectively put solar energy at the heart of the utility's business practice," said Julia Hamm, president and CEO of SEPA.  "The agency has demonstrated innovation and pragmatism in leveraging affordable solar to meet its goal of becoming a carbon-free utility."

Founded in 2005, SEPA’s annual awards recognize organizations and individuals advancing utility innovation, industry collaboration and leadership in the solar energy sector. 

Palo Alto Mayor Nancy Shepherd says, "This is a tremendous honor for the City of Palo Alto. We continually strive to be on the cutting edge of environmental sustainability and this award recognizes how public and private partnerships, along with forward-thinking community support for renewable energy, can allow cities to successfully reduce their carbon footprint."

The City of Palo Alto Utilities earned the 2014 award as a result of its leadership and innovation in demonstrating solar energy’s viability as a mainstream power source. It has continuously increased the size of its solar electric portfolio, including a recent power purchase agreement that puts the city on track to have a 100% carbon-free electric supply portfolio by the year 2017.  Since 2013, the City has implemented a 100% carbon neutral electric policy by purchasing energy from renewable sources, combined with the purchase of renewable energy certificates to offset "brown" market power purchases.

Most recently, City Council approved a plan to encourage local solar generation, with options for community and group buys for customers who want to support solar energy but cannot pursue installing a solar system on their own property. With the Local Solar Program strategy, the utility aims to increase the local solar installations from 5 Megawatts (MW) at the end of 2013 to 23 MW by 2023. 

The utility also offers customers a full set of solar services and incentives, including residential and commercial rebate programs, expedited permit processing, premium options allowing customers to further support green power purchases, workshops, one-on-one advice and coordination with industry representatives. It has established a feed-in-tariff for third parties interested in investing in solar installations on local businesses and selling the energy back to the utility.

About SEPA: SEPA is an educational nonprofit organization based in Washington, DC, dedicated to helping utilities integrate solar power into their energy portfolios. SEPA is a founder and on-going co-organizer of Solar Power International. It provides a range of reports, educational events, networking opportunities and advisory consulting services to its members.

About Palo Alto Utilities: The City of Palo Alto is the only municipality in California that operates a full suite of utilities. Two Stanford University professors, Charles Marx and Charles Benjamin Wing, were largely responsible for the emergence of the municipally owned utility service in Palo Alto.  Marx and Wing contended that the City could provide utility service at rates significantly below those charged by private companies.  One of the founding principles of those early pioneers was that the utilities must show a financial return to the community.  This has continued to be a priority.  In the most recent fiscal year, the electric and gas utilities provided millions of dollars in financial support to community services such as libraries, parks, police, and fire protection.  These contributions to the community do not occur in areas served by private power companies.  This makes Palo Alto a unique place to live and work.

For questions or more information, please contact Catherine Elvert at catherine.elvert@cityofpaloalto.org or (650) 329-2417.


Last Updated: December 23, 2014