Northern California Power Agency (NCPA)

Northern California Power Agency (NCPA)

Northern California Power Agency (NCPA) is a California Joint Action Agency. NCPA membership is open to municipalities, rural electric cooperatives, irrigation districts and other publicly owned entities interested in the purchase, aggregation, scheduling and management of electrical energy. For nearly four decades, NCPA has successfully provided scale and skill economies devoted to the purchase, generation, transmission, pooling and conservation of electrical energy and capacity for its members. With the onset of electric utility restructuring, the Agency has become a primary supplier of power scheduling and interchange management services to power marketers and public agencies.

Company details

651 Commerce Drive , Roseville , California 95678-6411 USA
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Business Type:
Professional association
Industry Type:
Energy Utilities
Market Focus:
Nationally (across the country)
Year Founded:

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The Northern California Power Agency (NCPA), a California Joint Action Agency, was established in 1968 by a consortium of locally owned electric utilities to make joint investments in energy resources that would ensure an affordable, reliable, and clean supply of electricity for customers in its member communities. NCPA members include municipalities, a rural electric cooperative, and other publicly owned entities for which the not-for-profit agency provides such services as the purchase, aggregation, scheduling, and management of electrical energy.

Most critically for its 15 members, NCPA over the past four decades has constructed and today operates and maintains a fleet of power plants that is among the cleanest in the nation, and that provides reliable and affordable electricity to more than 600,000 Californians. NCPA made a major investment in renewable energy in the early 1980s when it developed two geothermal power plants and financed and built a 250 megawatt hydroelectric facility. Thirty years later, these resources continue to generate reliable, emission-free electricity for its member communities.

NCPA’s  775 megawatt  portfolio of power plants is approximately 50% greenhouse gas emission-free.  NCPA’s mix of geothermal, hydroelectric, and natural gas resources is well positioned to help its members achieve California’s goal of a 33% Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) by 2020.  NCPA member utilities also have invested heavily in the most environmentally friendly form of electricity—the megawatts that you don’t use. The agency’s members collectively have spent more than $100 million on energy efficiency since 2006, reducing demand for electricity by more than 350 gigawatt hours during that time.

NCPA’s commitment to the environment reflects its status as a not-for-profit public entity whose policies and values are set not by investors, but by locally elected or appointed officials who serve as the energy regulators in the cities, towns, and districts that are members of the Agency.

Because these individuals live and work in their communities, and remain directly accountable for the utility service to their customers (and neighbors), they provide a knowledgeable, responsive and effective governing body. With that combination of industry knowledge and commitment to the environment, NCPA has scored some notable “firsts” in environmental stewardship:

The world’s first integrated wastewater geothermal system, which reversed years of declining steam production at the geothermal facility and prolonged the life of one of the state’s most important sources of renewable generation.

The first utility in the world to add a “downhole” hydroelectric turbine generator to a geothermal injection well to generate additional emission-free electricity while extending the life of the geothermal resource.

The first entity in the U.S. to install “fast start” combined-cycle natural gas turbines that not only are highly efficient but also are designed to facilitate the integration of new intermittent renewables, such as solar and wind, and help California meet its ambitious renewable portfolio standard targets.

The Northern California Power Agency (NCPA) is a not-for-profit Joint Powers Agency, whose members include the cities of Alameda, Biggs, Gridley, Healdsburg, Lodi, Lompoc, Palo Alto, Redding, Roseville, Santa Clara, and Ukiah, as well as the Bay Area Rapid Transit District, Port of Oakland, the Truckee Donner Public Utility District, and the Plumas-Sierra Rural Electric Cooperative.  NCPA was founded on the principle of environmental stewardship, and is a recognized national leader in the areas of energy efficiency, renewable generation, and carbon reduction.

NCPA is overseen by knowledgeable leaders from member communities. These are locally elected or appointed officials who serve as the energy regulators in their cities, towns, and districts, and volunteer their time for NCPA governance.  Because these individuals live and work in close proximity to their consumers, and remain directly accountable for the utility service in their communities, they provide an extremely responsive and effective governing body.  Over the years, they have fostered a culture of innovation and charted a visionary course of technological innovation and environmental leadership.

NCPA and its members have a long-standing commitment to provide California residents with an electricity supply that is reliable, affordable, and socially and environmentally responsible, and have a long tradition of investment in conservation projects. Together, NCPA members are doing their part to meet the energy and environmental needs of their communities as well as those of the State of California.

To provide members cost effective wholesale power, energy-related services, and advocacy on behalf of public power consumers through joint action.

In the decades following the Second World War, the rapidly growing demand for electricity in the United States led the Federal Power Commission (FPC) to encourage joint action by electric utilities to meet the supply challenges of the future.  In 1964, then-FPC Chairman Joseph Swidler, made the case that utilities working together to achieve economies of scale in power generation would make electricity not only more widely available, but at ever declining unit cost.  With federal encouragement, the American Public Power Association and other public power leaders traveled around the nation in the late 1960s actively promoting the formation of state-authorized joint action agencies.  Some of the earliest joint action ventures were also spurred by battles over exorbitantly high and inconsistent wholesale power rates charged by investor-owned utilities.

As a result of these national efforts, municipal electric utilities around the U.S. began banding together into regional agencies that allowed individual utilities to participate in power pools, to buy wholesale power as a group, and to jointly finance generating plants. Twenty-nine joint action agencies across the country were established in the 1970s, and another 23 in the 1980s. Following electricity industry restructuring in the 1990s, these joint action agencies evolved rapidly to provide a wider range of services, from meeting new reliability standards and environmental policies to purchasing, planning, program administration, training, and contract negotiation.

For small public power entities, joint action can provide the best of both worlds. It allows them to retain their core mission of community service—being responsive to the needs of residents and local businesses—while extending their reach. Joint action allows them to capture the economies of scale in power generation technology, power management, and other important services.

As the electricity business has grown more complex over the last 30 years, joint action agencies have flourished in the U.S. They have allowed public power to remain competitive with large investor-owned utilities, and increasingly serve as a model for innovation in clean energy.

Established through state legislation, joint action agencies give municipal utilities and other public entities the statutory authority to create a voluntary, inter-governmental body to coordinate and implement projects of mutual interest.  They are not-for-profit entities, governed by and for their members, with each member having representation and a voice. They have no taxing authority but can issue tax-exempt revenue bonds to finance the construction or acquisition of capital-intensive facilities, such as power generation plants.  The primary function of most joint action agencies is to assist members in their resource planning and to bring economies of scale to key functions, ranging from wholesale power supply to risk management.  Joint action does not constrain the independence of members. Typically each member maintains control over its own power supply portfolio and has the freedom to enter into power supply contracts with other suppliers.  Some agencies, such as the Northern California Power Agency, offer a wide and growing array of services of mutual benefit, and provide a brain-trust of valuable professional and technical resources for members to draw upon.

NCPA’s long term record of stewardship is a founding principle and reflects the values of the cities, towns, and districts that are members of the Agency. NCPA is run not by investors but by locally elected or appointed officials who serve as the energy regulators of the Agency’s member utilities. Because these individuals live and work in their communities, and remain directly accountable for the utility service to their customers (and neighbors), they provide a combination of industry knowledge and customer responsiveness that makes for an effective governing body.

NCPA’s portfolio of power plants is among the cleanest in the nation. Our owned generation facilities include geothermal and hydropower plants that have operated since the 1980s, and a state-of-the-art, fast-start natural gas facility built in 2012. NCPA’s major generation assets are the 110 megawatt (MW) Geysers geothermal plants; the 250MW North Fork Stanislaus River hydroelectric facility; and the 300MW natural gas-fired Lodi Energy Center.

Approximately half of the Agency’s portfolio is emission free. Greenhouse gas emissions from the Agency’s fleet of plants are well below the California state average and are significantly below statewide greenhouse gas emission targets proposed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. NCPA has been a pioneer in use of innovative technologies to benefit the environment. Examples include: the world’s first integrated wastewater geothermal system that greatly prolongs the life of this invaluable renewable resource; the world’s first “downhole” hydroelectric turbine generator installed at a geothermal injection well; the United States’ first “fast start” combined-cycle natural gas turbines, which not only are highly efficient but also are designed to work hand in glove with intermittent renewables such as solar and wind to help achieve the state’s renewable energy goals.

In the Sierra range, the Agency has enhanced 300 acres of wildlife habitat, set aside $1 million for the U.S. Forest Service to use as needed, and has spent an additional quarter of a million dollars to optimize environmentally sensitive public access to Big Trees State Park in Calaveras County. NCPA, together with other power customers of the Central Valley Project (CVP), also contributed $20.5 million to the CVP Restoration Fund in 2013 alone—more than called for by the CVP Improvement Act.

The 15 locally owned utility members of NCPA collectively have spent more than $100 million on energy efficiency programs since 2006, reducing demand for electricity by more than 350 gigawatt hours, which in turn has reduced the amount of carbon dioxide being released into the atmosphere by more than 4 billion pounds.

All NCPA members are in full compliance with the state’s Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) program and four already exceed the 33% RPS target set for 2020 and beyond.  NCPA’s collective portfolio, currently 24% renewable, exceeds the state’s target of 20% for the 2011-2013 compliance period. That excludes large hydropower (>30MW), which under state statute is not eligible to be counted toward meeting California’s RPS. However, when large hydropower generation and purchases are considered, NCPA’s percentage of renewables jumps from 24% to 45%. Including large hydropower, the renewable portfolios of NCPA’s member utilities range from 27% to 62%.