Spring 2013

[News]

Schatz Lab Charts Renewable Future for Humboldt

The Schatz Energy Research Center and the Redwood Coast Energy Authority's proposal could have Humboldt leading the rest of the State in a quest for cleaner air

energy diagram

Could Humboldt County meet almost all its energy needs with locally produced renewable power? Yes, according to a report unveiled in September by the Schatz Energy Research Center and the Redwood Coast Energy Authority.

The strategic planning report, titled “RePower Humboldt,” 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 that same time, Humboldt County could reduce its energy related greenhouse gas emissions by 45 percent, generate $50 million per year in additional economic output, create 300 new jobs and substantially increase the level of energy security for the region.

More than two years in the making, 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 percent.

Researchers emphasize this plan could serve as an example for the rest of the state as California works to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels under Assembly Bill 32.

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.

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 percent reduction below 1990 levels by 2050, we will need some regions to lead the way by scaling up clean energy use decades earlier,” says Schatz lab 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.”