PG&E Reasserts Its Clean Energy Leadership

The Pacific Gas & Electric Company (PG&E) has issued a comprehensive reorganization plan that strengthens the utility’s clean energy and climate commitments. The plan was unveiled in a filing on Friday with the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC), which will consider its merits over the next several months. California law requires the CPUC to determine whether PG&E’s proposal is “consistent with the state’s climate goals.” 

We believe it is, and NRDC will submit testimony supporting the plan’s clean energy provisions.

From an environmental perspective, the PG&E reorganization plan goes well beyond earlier commitments to honor the company’s contracts to purchase electricity from renewable energy providers, which represent a necessary but not sufficient condition for sustained environmental progress throughout (and well beyond) the utility’s Florida-sized service territory.  

Before the deadly and costly wildfires that led to PG&E’s bankruptcy protection filing last year (based on tens of billions of dollars in potential liability for property damage alone), PG&E had earned a reputation as one of the U.S. electricity sector’s strongest leaders in climate solutions, its strongest energy efficiency advocate, and its largest investor in decarbonization technologies. It was the first utility to support California’s pathbreaking climate legislation (the Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006, also known as AB 32) and among the strongest voices for federal action to curb carbon pollution.

During the bankruptcy period, PG&E upheld its clean energy commitments, including contract payments and pre-existing programs, but Californians have been waiting for a post-bankruptcy agenda consistent with the company’s earlier history of leadership.

We believe PG&E’s clean energy commitments in its reorganization proposal meets this standard. Highlights of its proposal, which includes extensive testimony from PG&E Vice President of Federal Affairs and Corporate Sustainability Jessica Hogle, are (quoting directly from the filing with the CPUC):

  • Going forward, we are committed to meeting California’s vision for a sustainable energy future, including implementation of (SB) 100, and carbon neutrality by 2045, in a reliable and cost-effective manner for customers.
  • PG&E works with broad industry and non-governmental entity coalitions to advocate for a federal price on carbon to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and amplify our experience in California as proof positive that it is possible to grow the economy and reduce greenhouse gas emissions at the same time.
  • PG&E also supports California’s stringent greenhouse gas tailpipe emissions standards, as well as advancing electric vehicle adoption by providing tax incentives and support for charging infrastructure. In 2019, as part of its membership in the National Coalition for Advanced Clean Air Transportation, PG&E joined California and several other states in a lawsuit against revising the EPA’s existing greenhouse gas emission standards.
  • We also welcome the opportunity to avoid investments in new gas assets that may later prove underutilized as local governments and the state work together to meet long term decarbonization objectives. We have supported several local ordinances to ban the use of natural gas in new buildings
  • We will advocate for stronger building codes and appliance standards in collaboration with entities like the California Energy Commission, while continuing to serve as California’s statewide coordinator for utility initiatives and analyses on standards.
  • [We will maintain] our longstanding leadership role in the nation’s first interdisciplinary energy efficiency institute at the University of California Davis and in the “best practices” clearinghouse for EE and demand response at the Consortium for Energy Efficiency.  
  • We support the state’s goals of five million zero emission vehicles (ZEV) on the road by 2030, supported by 250,000 charging stations, including 10,000 fast chargers, and 200 hydrogen fueling stations statewide by 2025. 
  • The Utility is on track to meet its 60 percent by 2030 RPS procurement mandate. In 2018, all electricity retail sellers had an annual target to serve at least 29 percent of their electric load with RPS-eligible resources. In 2018, we surpassed that target, delivering 38.9 percent of our bundled load from RPS-eligible resources (substantially exceeding the annual target of 29 percent).
  • In 2016, PG&E, labor unions, environmental groups, and community organizations sought CPUC approval for a Joint Proposal to retire the (Diablo Canyon) nuclear facility at the end of its current operating licenses, in 2024 and 2025. Underpinning the agreement was the recognition that California's new energy policies will significantly reduce the need for Diablo Canyon's electricity output. PG&E has worked with the Commission and stakeholders in the Integrated Resource Planning process to ensure that the Integrated Resource Planning process avoids any increase in emissions of greenhouse gases as a result of the retirement of Diablo Canyon.

As the largest utility in California (and one of the largest combined natural gas and electric companies in the nation), PG&E’s clean energy programs and investments have a significant role to play in California’s climate future.

Friday’s announcement indicates that, despite its recent financial challenges, the utility is ready to reestablish its leadership in securing a cleaner future for California and the nation.

About the Authors

Ralph Cavanagh

Energy Co-Director, Climate & Clean Energy Program

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