Technical Report

Humboldt County Energy Element Background Technical Report

California state law requires each city and county to adopt and periodically update a general plan, which serves as a local blueprint for future physical development and guides most land use decisions. The Redwood Coast Energy Authority is assisting Humboldt County's Community Services Development Department in the preparation of an “Energy Element” as part of the County’s current General Plan update process. The need for local energy planning is evident. This is particularly true for an area like Humboldt County that is somewhat remote and isolated from the rest of the energy grid. Uncertainty in the supply, reliability and affordability of energy, a shift toward decentralized electricity generation, and the associated land use, health, and safety issues all need to be considered by local planners. There is a close link between energy consumption and production and the physical development of land. Land use development policies strongly impact how much energy is consumed, and zoning and development strategies can affect the ability to develop and transport future energy resources. The development of an Energy Element for Humboldt County’s General Plan update can help ensure that policy decisions made now, which will guide the County for the next twenty years, take into account the region’s need for long-term energy sustainability. Humboldt County has a number of unique features with respect to energy. It is isolated at the end of the electricity and natural gas transmission lines, and the capacity of these lines is not great enough to import all of the county’s required energy. Related to these capacity constraints is the fact that the county currently produces a large portion of its electricity locally and also supplies some of its own natural gas needs. Add to this the fact that the county has a tremendous amount of potential local energy resources, in the form of wind, wave, biomass, hydroelectric and solar power. And finally, there is a lot of local interest and expertise and a strong desire to develop long-term energy sustainability for the region. What will a sustainable energy plan look like? It is likely to feature policies that will ensure energy supply continuity, reduce energy demand, increase energy efficiency, and advance the use of clean, efficient and renewable energy resources, especially those that are local. If the county develops long-term energy sustainability plans for the community, the benefits will be significant.