Regional Renewable Energy Procurement: Power through Partnerships

By Platt, Kayla; Judy, Caroline | Public Management, June 2012 | Go to article overview
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Regional Renewable Energy Procurement: Power through Partnerships

Platt, Kayla, Judy, Caroline, Public Management

Many of us in local government have been talking about regional partnerships as a way of reducing the cost of services, but are we really willing to "walk the talk"? Cities and counties that try to collaborate often run into challenges with governance or legal requirements. Or the agencies simply run out of energy and enthusiasm before results can be delivered.

Yet quietly and often successfully, there is one area of local government where collaboration is working: procurement. While many communities partner to piggyback off of each other's procurement contracts for goods and services, Alameda County, California, is using a model of collaborative procurement to help other public agencies develop renewable energy projects on public facilities.

Under the Regional Renewable Energy Procurement Project (R-REP), the county is leading the procurement process for 20 to 30 participating Bay Area agencies in Alameda, Contra Costa, San Mateo, and Santa Clara counties. The R-REP is projected to include more than 190 sites for a total of up to 50 megawatts of power. A technical adviser will then group these sites into bid bundles based upon type of technology, size, location, and site characteristics.

In addition to lowering energy costs for participating agencies and reducing greenhouse gas emissions, the regional economy will also get a boost, as renewable energy projects are initiated simultaneously. The R-REP is projected to generate more than 600 jobs and $200 million in economic activity.

Alameda County is directing the procurement in partnership with two regional public/private entities. To date, the group has focused on outreach and education to encourage participation. The next step for participating agencies is to complete professional site assessments to determine the feasibility of each project. Issuance of a request for proposal is planned for fall 2012.

This project is an expansion of the Silicon Valley Collaborative Renewable Energy Procurement Project (SV-REP), under which nine Bay Area public agencies in two counties developed solar projects at 70 sites. Through collaboration, these agencies were able to:

* Conserve funds and staff time (saved 75 to 90 percent in administrative costs and time).

* Achieve volume discounts and receive competitive bids (prices were 10 to 15 percent lower than going it alone).

* Benefit from standardized procurement documents and process.

* Receive competitive bids for individual sites that might otherwise not have been attractive to vendors.

* Accelerate deployment of projects.

* Use experiences within the collaboration through the procurement process.

Keys to Success: Commitment and Guidance

Following a best practice model developed by key SV-REP stakeholders has contributed to the success of the R-REP. This step-by-step model for collaborative procurement is defined in Purchasing Power: Best Practices Guide to Collaborative Solar Procurement (, which was published after the conclusion of the SV-REP.

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