‘RePower Humboldt’ Plan Pivots on Local Renewable Resources

The Schatz Energy Research Center at Humboldt State University and the Redwood Coast Energy Authority are soliciting broad community feedback on a comprehensive development plan that would maximize Humboldt County’s long-term reliance on local renewable energy resources.

The joint RePower Humboldt Strategic Plan projects that by 2030, local renewable energy could account for 98 percent of the county’s electricity demand, displace 33 percent of its heating load and supply 13 percent of its transportation needs. The cost increase is estimated at about 15 percent.

By 2030, Humboldt County could reduce its energy related greenhouse gas emissions by 45%, generate $50 million dollars per year in additional economic output, create 300 new jobs and substantially increase the level of energy security for the region, according to the analysis.

More than two years in the making, the 58-page Schatz/RCEA framework starts from the premise that energy efficiency should be maximized as the county’s “cheapest option.” The plan estimates that efficiency measures could reduce energy demand by as much as 25%.

Efficiency encompasses improvements in the fundamental design of new buildings, as well as retrofits of existing buildings to improve the performance of heating, lighting, refrigeration and cooking appliances and systems.

On the supply-side, RePower Humboldt endorses a full mix of renewable resources: biomass, solar power, wave energy and wind power and small hydroelectric generation. It weighs the pros and cons of each.

The county has, for example, “a tremendous woody biomass resource that is already used to meet 25 to 35 percent of our local electricity demand, and there is potential to expand this use of biomass for energy production.”

The development plan also encourages the use of electric vehicles and heat pumps that can be powered using locally-generated renewable electricity.

Main points include:

  • Aggressively pursuing cost-effective energy efficiency opportunities
  • Supporting responsible wind energy development
  • Expanding the use of biomass energy that is consistent with forest restoration needs and priorities
  • Developing infrastructure for and encouraging the use of electric vehicles
  • Fostering development of distributed energy installations
  • Pursuing avenues for local development and ownership of renewable energy projects, as well as local purchase of the power generated
  • Forming an energy leadership group to move the development plan forward.

The study cautions that no single policy or technology will suffice. It states that the renewable resource development it envisions will require strong local support, broad business community backing and probably substantial outside private investment.

The Schatz/RCEA blueprint also calls attention to the need to buttress local infrastructure: “Significant transmission and distribution system upgrades will be necessary to accommodate large-scale renewable energy development,” it says.

“If California is to meet its greenhouse gas reduction goals, which call for an 80% reduction below 1990 levels by 2050, we will need some regions to lead the way by scaling up clean energy use decades earlier,” says HSU Schatz Director Arne Jacobson. “Humboldt County has the opportunity to serve as a positive example in this regard, and the RePower Humboldt plan can act as a road map to get us there.”

Adds Matthew Marshall, executive director of the Redwood Coast Energy Authority, “Renewable energy development has the potential to provide significant economic, environmental and energy security benefits to our region. We’re excited to share the plan with the community and begin a dialog about our options moving forward.”

The community is encouraged to review the plan and provide feedback either online at http://www.redwoodenergy.org/programs/repower or http://www.schatzlab.org/repower or in person at the Redwood Coast Energy Authority, 517 5th Street, Eureka, 707-269-1700.

A public meeting will be held on Wednesday, September 26 from 6-8 p.m. at the Wharfinger Building in Eureka to discuss the RePower Humboldt plan. Public comment will be accepted through October 26th­ for incorporation in a final version of the current draft.