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Board directs staff to look for ways to double down on efforts to reduce PG&E inflicted pain
MUSD solar
The solar installed over the parking lot at the Manteca Unified School District headquarters at Louise Avenue and Airport Way.

PG&E costs borne by Manteca Unified soared by $1.4 million last school year or enough to cover the annual pay and benefits for 21.5 entry level teachers.

And it could have been worse.

The 2013 decision to go solar at 26 elementary schools and five high schools froze kilowatt usage at that time at $1.9 million annually.

That $1.9 million annual  cost has been constant for the past 10 years.

And when that $1.9 million that is repaying the cost of borrowing to install solar is paid off in just over 10 years, it will free up that money.

Some of it will be plowed back into the micro invertor solar panel systems in place as they lose their effectiveness over time. The district intends to make upgrades on a staggered basis to keep those costs below $1.9 million each year.

The strategy eventually means MUSD will be paying even less for the amount of kilowatt hours they used in 2013.

But it is growth in kilowatt usage and PG&E rate hikes since 2013 that have sent the district’s PG&E bill soaring.

It was budgeted at $3.5 million for the start of the 2022-2023 school. That reflected anticipated increases.

But due to additional rate hikes granted to PG&UE  and increased usage to accommodate growth — both for electricity and natural gas, the district end up writing checks to PG&E totaling $4.9 million last school year.

That is a 40 percent increase. And based on $65,000 for salary, benefits and retirement contributions for an entry level teacher, that money is the equivalent of hiring 21.5 entry level teachers.

The district through March of this school year has spent $5.4 million on PG&E. That reflects a 10 percent increase over last year.

And with four months to go, costs will exceed the $5.4 million the district budgeted for the full school year.

A desire to prevent future PG&E increases from cutting into spending in the classrooms is what prompted the school board last month to authorize a request for proposals to perform a district wide energy audit.

In addition, state law now requires all new school projects — modernization or otherwise — after Jan. 1 to not simply be plumbed for solar but to have actual solar panels installed as well as storage batteries.

The law also requires wiring new parking lots for EV chargers although they are not required to be installed — at least not yet.

The study will also look at going ahead with installing solar panels on recent modernization projects in the district including the new Manteca High gym and new two-story classroom buildings under construction currently at Manteca High and East Union High that were approved prior to Jan. 1.

They are already plumbed to accommodate solar installations.

The consultant will also look at how MUSD will need to gear up to meet the electric powered school bus mandate the state has in place.

MUSD wants to be able to generate — and store — as much electricity as they can afford to do so to avoid relying as much as possible on PG&E to power transportation services.


To contact Dennis Wyatt, email