Carbon-Free FAQ

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What is carbon-free electricity?

Starting January 1, 2018, Silicon Valley Power now provides all residential customers with carbon‑free power as their standard, default power supply. This means the power generation produces no net carbon emissions. Inherently, carbon‑free power uses no fossil fuel generation.  Carbon‑free electricity from Silicon Valley Power consists of 50% large hydroelectric power and 50% eligible renewable energy sources, including solar, wind, geothermal, landfill gas and small hydroelectric power plants. 

What is coal‑free electricity?

As of January 1, 2018, all power provided to Silicon Valley Power customers (both residential and commercial) is coal‑free, generated by power plants that do not use coal to produce electricity.

What is Silicon Valley Power’s 100% renewable energy option?

Silicon Valley Power provides customers with choices for their electricity supply.  Silicon Valley Power's 100% renewable energy option, Santa Clara Green Power, allows participants to cover 100% of their electricity with renewable energy from wind and solar facilities in California and the West. The option is Green-e Energy certified and meets the environmental and consumer protection standards set forth by the nonprofit Center for Resource Solutions. Green-e is a trusted global certification provider and helps guide Silicon Valley Power’s clean energy offerings.

Why does Silicon Valley Power provide these cleaner electricity products?

As the not-for-profit, community-owned municipal electric utility for the City of Santa Clara, Silicon Valley Power acts on behalf of Santa Clara residents and businesses. Silicon Valley Power customers have asked for cleaner electricity choices and Silicon Valley Power has delivered, proactively providing customers with a diversified mix of energy resources, offering its 100% renewable energy option, Santa Clara Green Power, since 2004.

Silicon Valley Power has also taken these actions as part of its efforts toward meeting climate goals set forth by the State of California, including the Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006 (AB32), which mandates cities to cut greenhouse gas emissions to 40% below 1990 levels by 2030 and the California Renewable Portfolio Standard, which requires utilities to ensure 50% of retail sales are from eligible renewables by 2030. The City of Santa Clara’s 2013 Climate Action Plan identified eliminating coal from our power supply and developing new renewable energy projects as key emission reduction strategies.

Is power from large hydroelectric resources considered renewable or carbon‑free?

Large hydroelectric resources (larger than 30 MW of generation capacity) are not considered eligible renewable by the state of California. Since large hydroelectric resources do not produce carbon emissions in order to generate power, Silicon Valley Power considers this power to be carbon‑free.

Is power from geothermal and landfill gas resources considered renewable or carbon‑free?

The geothermal and biomass resources used by Silicon Valley Power are considered renewable under the standards set by the California Air Resources Board and the standards set by Green-e Energy. However, these sources are not considered carbon‑free because landfill gas and geothermal plants emit low levels of greenhouse gases into the air. In order to meet Green‑e standards, Silicon Valley Power’s 100% renewable option, Santa Clara Green Power, does not contain geothermal and landfill gas resources.

How do I know that the electricity powering my home is carbon‑free?

Your home’s electricity is generated from renewable resources and large hydroelectric facilities that do not emit carbon in order to produce electricity. Silicon Valley Power procures carbon-free power for your home through resources that Silicon Valley Power owns or through multiyear Power Purchase Agreements (PPAs) with solar, wind, hydroelectric, landfill gas, and geothermal power plants. These PPAs directly support the building and generation of these cleaner power sources. This will be evident in Silicon Valley Power’s 2018 Residential Power Content Label, which will be released in 2019.

Will carbon‑free power impact the reliability of Silicon Valley Power’s electricity?

Carbon‑free power resources will not impact the reliability of Silicon Valley Power’s electricity. Silicon Valley Power’s diverse set of power resources are connected to the dynamic electric grid, designed to handle variability in both supply and demand.

What can residents expect going forward? Will my bill change?

Silicon Valley Power residential customers should not expect any changes to the quality, reliability, or price of their power as a result of Silicon Valley Power’s switch to carbon‑free power for all residential customers. Silicon Valley Power will procure enough renewable and large hydroelectric power for all residential customers to receive carbon‑free power over the calendar year. Service will not be disrupted or altered in any manner. As a not-for-profit enterprise of the City of Santa Clara, electric rates may be adjusted if overall costs change in the future. 

What can commercial customers expect moving forward?

Silicon Valley Power commercial customers should not expect any changes to the quality, reliability, or price of their power as a result of the switch to coal‑free power for all commercial customers. As a not-for-profit enterprise of the City of Santa Clara, electric rates may be adjusted if overall costs change in the future.

What can existing Santa Clara Green Power customers expect going forward?

Santa Clara Green Power participants will continue to have all their electricity use matched with equal quantities of 100% solar and wind renewable power. The rate for participation in the Santa Clara Green Power option is expected to stay the same. Please see the Santa Clara Green Power FAQs for any other questions.

Do I still need to worry about conserving energy now that electricity is carbon‑free?

The use of carbon‑free electricity will decrease Santa Clara resident’s carbon footprint from electricity use. However, all energy consumption has impacts on land use, the environment, and your electric bill. Therefore, it is important to use only as much energy as you need. Learn more about how you can use energy efficiently with these tips for your home and advice for your business.

Will Silicon Valley Power’s power supply change in the future?

Yes. The power content for all Silicon Valley Power commercial customers will still be on track to meet the California Renewables Portfolio Standard (RPS) set for all electric service providers. All individual customer segments (including both residential and commercial) will meet the RPS standard of 50% renewables by 2030.

What resources powered Silicon Valley Power’s electricity before 2018?

Previously, Silicon Valley Power’s electricity was generated by large and small hydroelectric, natural gas, wind, solar, geothermal, coal, and landfill gas resources. You can view Silicon Valley Power’s 2017 Power Content Label for more information.

Why does the Power Content Label on Silicon Valley Power’s website still show resources that emit carbon?

The 2017 Power Content Label currently on the website reflects the power resources used during 2017.  Silicon Valley Power and state percentages are evaluated annually based on electricity sold to consumers during the previous year. Therefore, the 2018 Power Content Label will be published in June 2019 and will reflect the power mix supplied in 2018. In June 2019, Silicon Valley Power will publish two separate Power Content Labels for the power supplied in 2018, one for residential customers, reflecting the carbon‑free power supply, and another for commercial customers, reflecting the coal‑free power supply.

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