When SCPPA was formed in 1980, the energy future of our state and our country was uncertain. We were nearing the end of the second oil crisis and oil prices were starting to recede after rising by nearly 150% only a year earlier. The Joint Action Agency concept was gaining momentum as a means to provide municipals access to lower cost power supply and economies of scale, with 29 agencies being established in the 1970’s, and another 23 in the 1980’s. Additionally, the country was still recovering from the scare of the Three Mile Island nuclear incident of 1979 and it was unclear if a clear path forward would emerge on alternative and renewable energy.
As SCPPA celebrates its 35th year of existence, we find ourselves again at another energy crossroads. The cost of renewable energy continues to decrease and renewables technology continues to improve. Distributed generation and storage will change how we as utilities do business as we strive to recover costs and finance infrastructure, require that growth pay for growth, and look for additional streams of revenue.
Carbon and renewables legislation adds another measure of complexity to our response. The year 2015 saw the adoption into law of SB350 which requires a 50% Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) by 2030, and the doubling of efficiency requirements for existing buildings. To meet these increasingly complex challenges, we at SCPPA have expanded our services to include far more than just providing financing for generation and transmission, as was our initial mandate.
Our Vision Statement says “SCPPA will provide cost-effective, joint-action services that supplement member programs and activities to assure continued member success.” By promoting energy efficiency and demand-side management programs and sources, educating Members through our ever-widening training opportunities, and developing and managing renewable energy projects, we believe we are well on our way of fulfilling that vision.
I have had the incredible fortune of being a part of SCPPA from nearly the beginning. And let me tell you, I have seen some changes in those many years. From the first renewable energy contract signed in 2004 for 20 megawatts (“MW”) from the Ormat Geothermal Project, to the over 426 megawatts in renewables that we have today, it has been my privilege to see SCPPA develop into the success that it is today.
In 1980, the year of SCPPA’s formation, the energy industry was concerned with mitigating dependence on foreign energy sources by looking at renewables and energy efficiency, and providing municipals with access to cheaper wholesale prices for their customers. In 2015, we are still managing similar challenges in many respects. The utility and energy industry continues to grow more complex and sophisticated every day. Our customers and lawmakers require and solutions that meet renewables requirements for the lowest cost. As we move into the next era of SCPPA’s existence, we will seek to integrate emerging technologies, advocate for low cost and efficient energy alternatives, and find innovative solutions to our members’ needs.