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SSJID taking delivery of federal power
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Electricity generated at federal facilities will start powering the South San Joaquin Irrigation District offices and a portion of the agency’s pumps starting in 2015.

The Western Area Power Administration that distributes cost-based electricity generated from 56 power plants operated by the Bureau of Reclamation and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in 15 states has allocated 468,000 kilowatt hours of electricity for SSJID use. The amount is relatively small. It is the rough equivalent of the annual electrical needs of 80 typical households of three people California. But it opens the door for additional power as it becomes available

Among the Northern California WAPA customers are East Bay Municipal Utility District, Modesto Irrigation District, Northern California Power Agency, Roseville, Silicon Valley Power, San Francisco, Turlock Irrigation District, Trinity Public Utility District, and Sacramento Municipal Utility District among others. The public agencies such as SMUD using WAPA power deliver electricity to retail customers at rates significantly below PG&E prices.

“Although the WAPA allocation is a small amount of total annual energy use, the value of being a WAPA preference customer is significant,” SSJID Utility Systems Director Don Battles noted in a memo to the SSJID board.

SSJID General Manager Jeff Shields pointed out that becoming a federal power customer enhances the district’s current plan to enter the retail power business.

The district’s application before the San Joaquin Local Agency Formation Commission to enter the retail power business in  order to reduce rates to power users in Manteca, Ripon, and Escalon so they are at least 15 percent lower than what PG&E charges is now in its 58th month.

The comment period for the municipal services report that is part of the LAFCO application ended Monday.

Shields said the SSJID board intends to press the LAFCO members to make a decision by June if possible.

Meanwhile, the SSJID board continues to position itself to enter the retail power business. SSJID along with Oakdale Irrigation Distinct through Tri-Dam Project inked a deal last year to sell hydro power to Silicon Valley Power from various plants it owns outright and in partnership with OID on the Stanislaus River watershed. Since it is renewable energy it comes with green credits that will allow it to financially leverage long-term power costs to secure lower wholesale rates for the needs of customers in Manteca, Ripon, and Escalon.

The 468,000 kilowatt hours meanwhile will help the district shave its own PG&E electrical bill until such time the SSJID is a retail power provider. It continues a strategy started with the installation of a massive solar farm adjacent to the South County Surface Water Treatment Plant to slash electrical bills connected with running the facility. Since being installed in 2008, the solar farm has saved the district and the cities of Manteca, Tracy and Lathrop that obtain treated water from the plant tens of thousands of dollars in PG&E power costs.