Late sun shines over solar panels and a wind farm near Mojave, CA.

Late sun shines over solar panels and a wind farm near Mojave, CA.

Producing and Consuming Power

DWR is both a major producer and consumer of electricity. In fact, the State Water Project (SWP) is the largest consumer of electricity in California. SWP's power portfolio consists of 65 percent carbon-free resources, increasing to 75 percent by 2030 and 95 percent by 2050. 

Moving millions of acre feet of water across hundreds of miles of aqueducts, pipelines, and canals requires pumping plants that use significant amounts of power. DWR operates 20 pumping plants to keep water moving from north to south along the California Aqueduct’s 700-mile length.

DWR also produces electricity, which ultimately helps meet SWP’s electrical demand. The SWP is the fourth largest producer of energy in the state, using its 5 hydroelectric generating plants and 4 hybrid pumping/generating plants. These hybrid plants pump water up and into a reservoir when electricity rates are low and then release water using gravity to generate electricity that powers SWP pumping plants or is sold back to the grid.

For decades, power plants burned fossil fuel to generate electricity. DWR is committed to improving air quality by reducing its greenhouse gas emissions by 50 percent below 1990 levels by 2020 and 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050. DWR has terminated its relationship with coal-powered plants and partnered with solar energy projects adjacent to and on DWR property to produce clean energy for the state’s electrical grid.

Buying Power

The Department has also been in the business of purchasing power. In response to the turn-of-the-millennium energy crisis, Governor Gray Davis signed an Executive Order in January 2001 that ordered DWR to purchase energy for California’s three investor-owned utilities. At that time, Pacific Gas & Electric, Southern California Edison, and San Diego Gas & Electric were on the verge of bankruptcy and unable to make purchases. DWR established the California Energy Resources Scheduling division (CERS) to buy and sell electricity on behalf of big utilities and to purchase the remaining energy requirements (“net short”) for their retail customers. CERS actions helped stabilize the wholesale power markets in California and returned electricity prices to reasonable levels. CERS has been transitioning operating responsibility back to the utilities and has a planned sunset of 2022.