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Sustainability and Mobility

Energy Independence and Resilience

The tips below provide information on the California energy market, energy independence, and power outages.  

How does the California energy market work?

The California electric marketplace is a complex interaction of state, local and federal agencies, private enterprise and not-for-profit organizations. For a simplified overview of the current operational and regulatory interactions see the California Independent System Operator (ISO) diagram.

How do I tell when my area is going to be blacked out?

The California Independent System Operator (ISO) determines a level of load reduction that is needed to maintain grid reliability. They notify the local utilities of their share of this amount. It is up to the individual utilities to determine how they will implement the load shedding (i.e. rolling blackouts). Utility policies differ. To determine whether you will possibly be blacked out, see the SDG&E Energy Update.

What are the different types of power outages and how can I prepare for an outage?

Many power outages occur as a result of excessive energy use. Learn more about the types of power outages and their stages as identified by the California Independent System Operator (ISO).

What has the city done to pursue energy independence and what lessons has the city learned?

The City is conserving electricity at unprecedented rates, generating electricity, and has assured reliable energy sources for vital City functions:

1. Energy Conservation and Management

  • Through conservation efforts and energy efficiency upgrade projects, the City avoids 24 million in electrical costs annually.
  • Energy efficiency upgrade projects include replacing less efficient energy consuming equipment with higher energy efficient equipment. Examples include: replacing City Administration Building chillers; changing T-12 florescent lamps with mechanical ballasts to T-8 bulbs with electronic ballasts; replacing incandescent traffic signal bulbs with LED bulbs using 90% less energy with a 5 to 7 year life compared to 18 months for incandescent bulbs; replacing old rooftop air conditioning packages; and installing active day lighting systems virtually eliminating the use of artificial lighting during most daylight hours.

2. Self Generation Using Landfill and Sewer Gases

  • A gas utilization facility located in the Point Loma Waste Water Treatment Plant (PLWWTP) is powered by methane gas and generates 4.57 megawatts of electricity.
  • PLWWP operates a 1.2-megawatts generator peaking unit that runs on 80 percent digester gas and 20 percent diesel fuel. This is the first time any existing diesel generator has been converted into a peaking unit utilizing digester gas.
  • Methane gas produced by the set of digesters at the Metro Biosolids Center (MBC) and landfill gas from the adjacent Miramar Landfill is captured and converted to produce 6.4 megawatts of electricity.
  • The North City Water Reclamation Plant was built to produce 3.8 megawatts of energy from excess landfill gas.
  • The City of San Diego generates 153,000 megawatt-hours of renewable power on an annual basis. Approximately half of the 10.2 megawatts produced at the wastewater treatment plants is utilized on site.

3. Self Generation Using Solar Power

  • The City has 13 photovoltaic systems installed throughout the region on City-owned facilities capable of producing 1.24 megawatts of solar power. Included, is the megawatt of solar power installed February of 2007 at the Alvarado Water Filtration Plant.
  • In 2006, another megawatt of solar power is scheduled to be installed at the Alvarado Water Filtration Plant.

4. Self Generation Using Hydroelectric

  • PLWWTP employs a hydroelectric facility producing another 1.35 megawatts of power generated by the 100-foot drop of treated sewage flow exiting the plant into the ocean.

5. Cogeneration at Police Headquarters

  • A 500 kilowatt cogeneration system provides dual benefit by using the system exhaust heat to produce building cooling. This combined heat and power approach obtains the highest efficiency for the fuel consumed. The dual generation arrangement is the first "hybrid" interconnection of multiple electric generation systems to a single electric meter in the SDG&E service territory. The annual energy savings guaranteed from this project is $621,589.

6. Energy Efficient Buildings

  • EPA Energy Star Awards have been awarded to Central, Carmel Mountain, and Rancho Bernardo libraries and to the Ridgehaven "Green" Building and the World Trade Center office buildings in recognition of each facility ranking among the top 25% most energy efficient buildings nationwide.
  • By implementing the Sustainable Building Policy committing to design and construction at the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design LEED-Silver level, San Ysidro's Fire Station 29 and the George L. Stevens Senior Center are 28% more energy efficient than California Energy Code Title 24 (2005) requirements.

The City also established a centralized Energy Conservation and Management Program within the Department of Environmental Services, which sends a clear message that energy use is not just a financial management issue, but also an environmental issue with serious consequences. The use of energy from traditional fossil fuel-power generating facilities is responsible for numerous air pollutants, including those that we associate with "smog" and impact the global climate. Therefore, by decreasing the demand for energy from these sources and increasing the City's generation of energy through clean, renewable resources, the City of San Diego sets itself apart as a national leader for a sustainable future.

The City's Energy Conservation and Management Program has established indicators that monitor trends in consumption and generation of energy, and track policies and programs that support community involvement. Each of these indicators have baseline measurements and short-term and long-term targets, thereby measuring progress in both the City organization and the community at large. Just as importantly, the Comprehensive Plan has been shared with all City Departments for successful implementation of the City's Energy Strategy.

The City continues to strengthen and expand energy conservation policies, and will encourage the development and use of renewable energy as a means to achieve greater energy independence. The City's commitment to becoming a "Clean Energy Leader" will influence the energy choices of businesses and residents. An aggressive education outreach campaign and targeted incentives will enable the City to raise the level of energy conservation and use of renewable energy within the entire community.

What lessons has the city learned?

  1. Establishing an oversight program with clear lines of accountability is essential for consistent implementation of energy conservation policies throughout all City facilities.
  2. Providing strong leadership within the community can inspire businesses and residents to reduce San Diego's dependence on outside energy sources.