The State Worker

Renewable energy to power Sacramento state buildings

The Capitol Area East End Complex is one of nearly two dozen state buildings in Sacramento that will soon receive all their electricity from renewable sources.
The Capitol Area East End Complex is one of nearly two dozen state buildings in Sacramento that will soon receive all their electricity from renewable sources. Sacramento Bee file

Gov. Jerry Brown’s administration and Sacramento’s not-for-profit electric utility have reached an agreement that will power nearly two dozen state office buildings with electricity from renewable sources within the next month.

The three-year pact between SMUD and the Department of General Services will kick in with the state’s next billing cycle, department spokesman Brian Ferguson said, and immediately catapult the state into one of the largest purchasers of renewable energy in the nation. The cost to taxpayers, the department estimates, will be negligible.

“We’re excited,” Ferguson said.

The Sacramento Municipal Utility District serves roughly 11 million square feet of state office space, but for now just 23 buildings in downtown Sacramento, including the Capitol, will receive 100 percent of their electricity from renewable sources such as wind, water, sun and biomass.

Another 10 state office buildings outside the capital core, such as the sprawling Franchise Tax Board campus near Interstate 50, will be added later, Ferguson said. Meanwhile General Services, which acts as the government’s landlord, will keep working to launch similar programs with other utilities serving a total 5.3 million square feet of state facilities in other parts of the state.

Switching to renewable power will increase the buildings’ electricity bills by $6 per megawatt-hour of electricity, or 5 percent. That’s about 1 percentage point less than what SMUD charges residential customers, “but we got a cheaper price because we’re buying in bulk,” Ferguson said.

The state buildings will not actually have direct lines to renewable sources, but the state is footing the higher cost of renewable electricity generation.

The higher cost will be covered by existing rent paid to General Services by the departments that reside in its state-owned buildings.

The agreement, which was signed last week, is the latest event in more than a decade of gubernatorial pronouncements intended to display state operations as role models of energy efficiency and resource conservation.

In 2004, for example, Brown’s Republican predecessor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, issued an executive order to make existing state buildings more efficient and build new structures to specific environmentally friendly standards.

Last year, Brown ordered state departments to cut their water consumption by 20 percent, prompting agencies to switch out inefficient fixtures, cut back on washing state vehicles, allow ornamental fountains to go dry and shut off water for landscaping. The Capitol’s grounds turned brown last year and ground crews kept empty planting beds around the building that are usually filled with colorful annual flowers.

The SMUD agreement, Ferguson said, exemplifies Brown’s larger effort to increase California’s consumption of electricity derived from renewable from one-third to 50 percent by 2030.