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Santa launches drive for carbon-neutral Christmas by 2030

Consumers demand, ‘If Walmart runs on clean energy; why can’t you?’

NORTH POLE — In the wake of the recent United Nations’ Climate Change Summit, Santa Claus, Chairman and CEO of leading holiday gift distributor RudolphRed LLC, has announced that the company’s entire North Pole operations will be carbon neutral by 2030. RudolphRed jump-started its green initiatives two years ago with a 15-megawatt (MW) microgrid to provide the flexible capacity needed to better manage its sharp spikes in holiday electricity demand — the now well-known “reindeer curve.”

Sample North Pole load curve, Dec. 24-25, 2017 (Source: RudolphRed)

But with climate change driving unprecedented environmental impacts in the Arctic, and many key issues left unresolved at the UN summit, more aggressive action is needed, said Sophia Claus, Santa’s daughter and RudolphRed’s recently appointed Chief Sustainability Officer.

“As we commit to this new goal, we are also announcing a rebranding initiative. Over the next year, RudolphRed will become RudolphGreen,” she said.

“This name change is not a simple green-wash,” Ms. Claus said. “It signals a major change in our organizational culture. We are seeing increased consumer demand for sustainable holiday gifts, and concern about the long-term viability of our location and business model. The kids and their parents aren’t only interested in specific toys or gaming systems; they are asking about our supply chains and product life cycles, and the reindeer’s carbon footprint. One 6-year-old recently sent us an email, asking, ‘If Walmart is going to run on 100-percent clean energy, why can’t you?’”

Ms. Claus said the exact date for the name change has not been finalized, but the rebranding should be complete in time for the holiday season in 2019. She added that RudolphRed has once again contracted with the Smart Electric Power Alliance (SEPA) — which worked with the company on the microgrid — to draft a wide-ranging request for information (RFI). The draft will be submitted to the Arctic Public Utilities Commission in the coming days.

“Clearly, given the extremes of light and weather at the North Pole, we are going to need a broad portfolio of distributed energy resources and innovative ways of leveraging their different capabilities,” she said. “SEPA’s analysis of the full range of DER capabilities and its recent work on non-wires alternatives have really expanded our thinking on system flexibility and our future need for a highly interoperable, plug-and-play system.”

The capabilities of distributed energy resources include capacity and grid support services to support increased levels of renewable energy on the grid. (Source: SEPA)

Sharon Allan, SEPA’s Chief Innovation Officer, added that the RFI will be the first step in a broad, public process for stakeholder engagement, which may include the formation of one or more working groups.

“With such an ambitious goal, a solid foundation of stakeholder input is critical,” Allan said. “The elves are leading initial research — they know Santa’s operations inside out — and are focusing on energy efficiency measures to start. But getting broad agreement across the North Pole community may be challenging. We hope to promote consensus and drive innovation with a ‘Polar Pathways’ approach — focusing on grid integration, electrification of transportation, new business models and regulatory innovation.”

Ms. Claus also stressed the complexity of the work ahead, and the need for strategic collaboration and compromise.

“Santa and RudolphRed are the gift distribution system of last resort — not even Amazon has our international reach,” she said. “Our customers rely on us for clean, safe, reliable and  affordable holiday deliveries in an incredibly concentrated timeframe. The challenge here will be to decarbonize our operations and develop new business models as quickly as possible — without compromising our core services.”

SEPA and RudolphRed invite all holiday stakeholders to submit ideas for Santa’s carbon-neutral RFI to [email protected].

Like Santa, in 2019, SEPA will be focusing its work on four pathways aimed at accelerating the the U.S. energy transition: grid integration, transportation electrification, utility business models and regulatory innovation. For information or to become involved, contact us at [email protected].

To: Arctic Public Utilities Commission

From: RudolphRed LLC

Request for information: Seeking technologies, and business and regulatory models to support RudolphRed’s target of carbon-neutral operations by 2030 

RudolphRed is seeking information on distributed energy resources (DERs) and related solutions for grid modernization and digital system-management to be integrated into a holistic, carbon-neutral portfolio for the operation of its North Pole facilities no later than 2030. The main power demand includes Santa’s workshops, the reindeer farm and 24-7 Green Elf data center, which provides year-round inventory control and real-time distribution tracking to ensure on-time holiday deliveries.

We are prioritizing clean, sustainable and cost-effective resources — including energy efficiency and demand response — along with renewable generation, but recognize that a 100-percent renewable portfolio may not be feasible at this point in time. We are especially interested in collaborative approaches that provide innovative solutions to RudolphRed’s unique power profile — aka, the reindeer curve.

Submissions to this RFI should  — to the greatest extent possible — reflect RudolphRed’s four “Polar Pathways” strategy.

DER integration: RudolphRed installed a 15-MW microgrid in 2017, which may be used as a foundation for scaling out other distributed technologies.

Installed in 2017, the North Pole microgrid is a hybrid installation with combined heat and power, solar and storage with islanding capabilities. (Source: SEPA)

Solutions here will include an optimal mix of clean generation, storage and advanced metering technologies to take advantage of the extreme seasonal cycles of solar and wind generation at the North Pole. Biogas sourced from the reindeer farm is also available for combined heat and power, and we are looking for non-wires alternatives to distribution and transmission upgrades.

Electrification of transport: Electrification of the RudolphRed fleet at Santa’s workshop will be a top priority — to cut emissions and provide a “renewable sponge” for excess solar or wind generation during summer and winter peaks. Managed charging and vehicle-to-grid (V2G) solutions are encouraged.

Note: Preliminary market research indicates strong sentiment across all stakeholder demographics to retain Santa’s sleigh and reindeer as a key legacy system. Consequently, submissions should also consider an integrated plan for carbon pricing or offsets.

Business models: Rate design and business models at the North Pole must take into account the seasonal extremes of weather and demand. Pilots with time-of-use rates and critical peak pricing have thus far not provided the price signals and incentives for more efficient use of the system. RudolphRed is particularly interested in third-party demand management programs and projects aimed at shaving or shifting holiday demand peaks and cutting demand charges.

Note: The elves have expressed interest in smart home technologies and the potential for DER aggregation. Again collaborative partnerships with the community should be considered.

Regulatory innovation: The Arctic Public Utilities Commission — composed of five members elected by the community — supports RudolphRed’s carbon-neutral goals, but recognizes its processes are based on now-outmoded planning cycles. New approaches will be needed for  integrated resource and distribution planning, with a high priority on flexibility to accommodate new technologies and business models that promote reliability and efficiency, while reducing the need for pilot programs. Performance-based solutions are encouraged.

RudolphRed and the Arctic PUC seek public input on this RFI. Comments should be sent to [email protected] no later than Feb. 15, 2019. A public hearing will be scheduled in the coming weeks.