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Vallejo To Produce Its Own Energy
July 6, 2001

San Francisco Chronicle Friday, July 6, 2001

Conservation, generators expected to make city self-sufficient

Jason B. Johnson, Chronicle Staff Writer

Vallejo leaders, looking to escape mounting gas and electric bills, are planning to build enough new power generators that the city government will be self-sufficient when it comes to energy.

City officials said they believe that Vallejo is the first city in the nation to take such an approach.

“This is going to be a showplace,” said Scott Sossen, the chief executive officer of Edge Capital Group, a funding agency based in Orange County. Edge will be supervising the work along with O’Hara Energy Corp. of Nevada.

The plan comes at a time when the city expects to see its energy costs double next year if it continues buying its power from PG&E.

“It couldn’t be more timely,” said Mayor Tony Intintoli.

Vallejo leaders are in the process of contracting with private business to build new wind, solar and microturbine generators. Construction of a one- megawatt solar generator could start within 30 to 60 days.

Conservation is also part of the plan, and energy-efficiency improvements are already under way at Vallejo City Hall and the fire and police stations.

City officials hope to add enough sources of power generation to make all city offices—which consume about 10 megawatts a year—self-sufficient by the end of the year.

The Vallejo City Council gave tentative approval to the project late last month and will continue its discussions on the plan next week.

Vallejo taxpayers won’t have to pay any money in advance, because Edge will finance the project’s first $50 million in capital costs.

In return, a portion of the city’s projected financial savings will be shared with the Edge and O’Hara.

“This is a fairly sizable project,” said Kevin Chambers, the chief executive officer at O’Hara. “Energy-efficient capital is difficult to find because it is such a new field.”

O’Hara is installing high-tech energy management systems at all city-owned property to reduce energy consumption. Final sites for the construction of new wind, solar and microturbine generators have not been chosen.

In recent years, the energy bill for Vallejo city government has averaged between $2 million and $3 million per year. That includes the police and fire departments, City Hall and water-pumping stations.

Vallejo is part of a group of 50 local governments in Northern California that pooled their resources to buy electricity and natural gas, keeping prices down. But the group’s current contract expires Dec. 30.

As a result, the city expects its energy bill to double next year, from 9.2 cents per kilowatt hour to 20 cents per kilowatt hour.

“It’s been very positive what we’ve been doing, and it hasn’t cost us anything,” said City Manager David Martinez. “We’re going to be very optimistic that this is going to be a good thing for the city.”

City officials hope to eventually extend the plan to Vallejo’s 4,500 businesses and 37,000 households.

E-mail Jason B. Johnson at jbjohnson@sfchronicle.com.