By Greg Augst, Director of General Services, SMUD

When the Sacramento Municipal Utility District (SMUD) came into being in 1946, it served about 65,000 customers. Today, it serves nearly ten times that number and the service territory has more than doubled.

Over the last decade, as operations continued to get tighter in its existing buildings and the local real estate market contracted with the economy, opportunities arose. SMUD took advantage of the downturn in real estate values and purchased an old rock quarry at a rock bottom price and began building a diamond in that rough.

The East Campus Operations Center, or EC-OC, was planned to be a multi-use expansion that would serve as a smart grid nerve center, corporate yard, and much-needed office space for SMUD employees. Its central location put line crews and troubleshooters, the workers who keep the lights on, in a more centralized location to more quickly respond to power outages.

The building features a state-of-the-art energy efficiency design and systems as well as renewable power generation sources that enables the building to generate as much power as it uses. For this the U.S. Green Building Council certified it LEED aPlatinum. The EC-OC project helped the regional economy with the influx of 300 construction jobs. Thirty-three of the 35 subcontractors hired were locally based. And local small businesses were subcontracted for more than $30 million worth of work.

In 2009, SMUD took advantage of another grand opportunity as it was awarded a $127 million smart grid infrastructure grant by the Department of Energy. The grant provided the foundation for SMUD’s SmartSacramento project and laid the foundation for the smart grid.


The electric industry is shifting from a centralized, producer-controlled network to one that is less centralized and more consumer-interactive. SmartSacramento, SMUD’s smart grid project, is one of the most significant projects SMUD has ever undertaken. SMUD’s focus on both projects is to “benefit the customer.” The Sacramento region is already reaping many of the benefits of this technological evolution.

Inside the EC-OC is where the nerve center for the smarter, more efficient smart grid is located.  It starts with smart meters, the backbone of the system that provides immediate two-way communication between the utility and the customer. Since a smart grid is in many respects self-healing thanks to the meters and other technology, it’s capable of automatically detecting, isolating and responding to power outages. Because of the smarter grid, utilities like SMUD have an easier time integrating renewable resources such as solar and wind into the grid while continuing to provide the reliable power our customers expect.

In applying for the federal grant, SMUD lined up six community partners that are helping SMUD test smart grid efficiency applications and share in the benefits while committing matching funds of their own:

  • Sacramento State
  • California’s Department of General Services
  • The County of Sacramento
  • Los Rios Community College District
  • Elk Grove Unified School District
  • Sacramento City Unified School District

At that ribbon-cutting ceremony last year, DOE Assistant Secretary Patricia Hoffman talked about community, too, in praising SMUD’s smart-grid work. “This project exemplifies everything we’re trying to achieve (at the DOE). What SMUD has done is pull the community together,” Hoffman said. “This is the business model for the future.”

The project encompasses dozens more separate projects in such areas as advanced metering infrastructure, demand response systems, customer applications like energy management tools, new pricing plans, electric-vehicle charging strategies and cyber security, each of which are geared toward saving energy, money and protecting the environment, while improving and maintaining high reliability–all key aspects of boosting economic development and growth in the Sacramento region.

SMUD inside lobby

The Most efficient Corporate Yard in the Nation

SMUD’s new EC-OC demonstrates our commitment to the community. For decades we have preached the value of energy efficiency as a commodity. Why would an electric company want customers to use less? There is a balance between supply and demand, a sweet spot, where everyone, customers and utility benefit. The building is a net-zero energy user, meaning that over the course of a year, the site will produce as much energy as it consumes. The energy is coming from solar arrays that can produce 1 megawatt of electricity, as well as other renewable technologies, combined with top-flight energy saving strategies.

All new commercial buildings in California will be required to be net-zero-energy by 2030. This facility is 17 years ahead of the curve.

The square footage of buildings at the EC-OC is comparable to square footage of other SMUD buildings, yet the new campus will use only about one-third the energy. The environmental goals for the campus came before anything else. Well before the design-build project was put out to bid, SMUD pushed the energy efficiency concepts far beyond California’s Title 24, which spells out efficiency requirements. To hold down the solar cost, energy efficiency was maximized.

Three key technologies deliver the savings:

  • Underground geothermal heat-pump system, which is extremely efficient.
  • Radiant heating and cooling in all of the buildings.
  • LED lighting throughout the campus.

Campus energy use is 50 to 60 percent lower than Title 24 requires. The annual electricity savings are enough to power 334 homes, and the volume of avoided carbon dioxide emissions will be equivalent to taking 4,000 cars off the road.

The new campus sets a great example for the architectural, engineering and construction community, as well as our customers and the utility industry, finding a way to dramatically cut energy usage without giving up comfort and convenience.

While the Department of Energy grant was a major factor, the East Campus-Operations Center project involved cooperation and teamwork at the local, state and national levels. At the ribbon-cutting ceremony last year, US Congresswoman Doris Matsui commended SMUD’s leadership and its role in the region. “It’s unique for a community to share a bond with an electric utility. But that’s what we’ve had with SMUD,” said Matsui. “The economic and environmental health of our region owes much to SMUD.”

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Originally posted at CSDA.

About Sacramento Municipal Utility District

As the nation’s sixth-largest community-owned electric service provider, SMUD has been providing low-cost, reliable electricity for more than 65 years to Sacramento County (and small adjoining portions of Placer and Yolo Counties). SMUD is a recognized industry leader and award winner for its innovative energy efficiency programs, renewable power technologies, and for its sustainable solutions for a healthier environment. SMUD is the first large California utility to receive more than 20 percent of its energy from renewable resources. For more information, visit