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Zero-carbon technology assessment forms Sacramento’s 2030 Net Zero Plan

Sacramento Municipal Utility District

Sacramento, CA

Sacramento Municipal Utility District set the goal of achieving net zero emissions by 2030 to combat the impacts of climate change. SMUD used an assessment of renewable energy technologies to build a plan that would guide the work needed to achieve its goal.

Topics Covered

Air Quality, Health, Noise


Initial: 150 Thousand USD


General Fund/Existing Public Funds

Project Status

Operational since 2021

Problem Addressed

The Sacramento Municipal Utility District was unsure which strategies and technologies would help it reach its goal of net zero emissions by 2030.

Sacramento Municipal Utility District (SMUD) is intent on growing the proportion of carbon-free electricity it provides to the Sacramento region and its more than 1.5 million customers.

The last sixty-five years have seen the utility district demonstrate innovations like a 688-MW hydroelectric system built in 1957 and the world’s first commercial-scale solar photovoltaic power plant in 1984. SMUD was also the first large California utility to have at least 20% of energy come from renewables. In 2021, SMUD’s energy supply is on average 50% carbon-free thanks to a range of clean energy resources.

Despite that carbon reduction pedigree, the utility district continued to look ahead to further decarbonization with a plan to achieve net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2040. Due to the increasing impacts of climate change like wildfires, rising temperatures, and decreased snowpack seen in 2020, SMUD advanced its goal by committing to achieve net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2030.

“Climate change is a critical issue threatening our world, but it’s more than that for us,” said Valentino Tiangco, biomass program lead at SMUD. “Air quality in Sacramento is among the worst in the country. 

By setting this goal, SMUD can stand as an example for other utilities to follow in eliminating greenhouse gas emissions. To achieve the goal in the desired timeline, the utility district needed guidance on what emission reduction strategies would be most effective and incorporate those strategies into a structured plan to share with customers and key stakeholders.

Solutions Used

Using an assessment of zero-carbon technologies, SMUD built a plan to guide its work and progress toward achieving net zero emissions.

Sacramento Municipal Utility District commissioned an assessment of zero-carbon technologies that could form the basis of its 2030 Zero Carbon Plan.

The assessment was performed by Black & Veatch and equipped the utility district with an analysis of the full range of zero-carbon and renewable technologies currently available, including biomass and biogas, carbon sequestration and storage, geothermal energy, long-duration energy storage, onshore and offshore wind, and renewable hydrogen and solar PV. 

The analysis of each technology was evaluated on measures such as: 

  • Cost-effectiveness
  • Performance
  • Technical and economic feasibility
  • The Levelized Cost of Energy (LCOEs)
  • Development issues and challenges  

SMUD estimates that it will be able to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 90% by simply expanding its current clean energy technology. Using the information gathered from the analysis of zero-carbon technologies, the utility district can make informed decisions on which existing technologies to expand the use of and incorporate those strategies into its zero-carbon plan.

“Our Plan will contribute to improving both air quality and greenhouse gas emissions,” said Valentino Tiangco, biomass program lead at SMUD. “To support the analyses, we selected Black & Veatch to assess zero-carbon technologies that could provide the sustainability and resilience we need to achieve this aggressive and highly necessary goal.”

The remaining 10% of greenhouse gas emissions reduction is anticipated to be reliant on emerging technologies. Sacramento Municipal Utility District is focused on four main areas: electrification, education and demand flexibility, virtual power plants and vehicle-to-grid technology, and new grid-scale technologies.

The utility district’s plan was published in March of 2021 and lays out a roadmap for how it will expand proven clean technologies, incorporate future technologies, and minimize the financial impact of these changes so customers and the community can reap the benefits of decarbonization.



Sacramento Municipal Utility District used the information gathered from the assessment to build its 2030 Zero Carbon Plan


The assessment found solar and onshore wind to be the lowest cost energy options on a levelized basis, which the utility district can use to support future investments


By building out the Net Zero Plan, SMUD can keep its customers engaged with how it is pursuing decarbonization and prioritizing air quality


Anticipated advancements in technology will make long-term energy storage more economical, helping the utility district shift to exclusively zero-carbon energy sources

Who Should Consider

Utilities seeking insight into what technologies and strategies can most effectively help them achieve net zero emissions.

Government Project Team

  • Valentino Tiangco, Biomass Program Lead

Last Updated

Apr 21st, 2022
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