“We are the bright spot in the California energy crisis that reached its peak in 2001,” says JD Slack, SMUD Economic Development Program Manager. “We came out well because SMUD is locally controlled, not investor-controlled like so many other utilities. We were not forced to sell off power plants like California Edison. We were not restricted.”

SMUD serves Sacramento, California’s capital. The city’s largest employer is the state government and the area also boasts a wide range of industries ranging from aerospace to food processing. Among the companies located there are Aerojet General, Intel, Campbell Soup and Cardinal Glass.

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“Sacramento has benefited from an influx of companies, especially from the San Francisco Bay area, because of the economic slow down,” reveals Mr Slack. “Some companies may maintain their headquarters there, but many have opened facilities here, where the cost of doing business is 20%-25% lower.”

Reliable, affordable and predictable service plus a unique set of energy efficiency programmes also make the SMUD service area attractive for economic development. To help grow business, SMUD offers an incentive rate. If a company creates 50-plus jobs with an electric load of 300 kiloWatts, the company is eligible for discounted rates over three years. In a state where most utilities have had to increase rates considerably to cover costs brought on by California’s energy crisis, SMUD has had only one rate increase between 1990 and 2003. “That is almost unheard of,” Mr Slack says. “As a result, customers tend to be very happy with our utility.”

The green option

Customers can buy energy from renewable sources through SMUD’s Greenergy programme. Wind power comes from a 3000 acre wind farm in the Sacramento and San Francisco Bay area. SMUD also converts landfill gases into methane, which can be turned into electricity.

The utility has just celebrated the 20th anniversary of its first major solar installations by dedicating a sixth installation. The plant now has nearly 5000 solar panels.

SMUD works closely with the Sacramento Area Commerce & Trade Organization as well as large commercial and industrial brokerage houses such as Grubb & Ellis to provide leads for site selection.

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