PG&E makes progress toward 33 percent renewables goal
By Jonathan Marshall
PG&E forecasts that it will supply about 27 percent of its 2014 electricity sales from renewable sources, according to a new report to the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) on the utility's compliance with the state's Renewables Portfolio Standard (RPS).
If that forecast holds, it will represent a sharp increase from the 19 percent achieved in 2012 and the 22.5 percent level hit in 2013. The utility is on track to meeting the state's aggressive RPS goal of 33 percent renewable electricity by 2020.
As large renewable energy projects come on line after years of development, PG&E customers are enjoying a surge of greener electricity, confirming the utility's position as one of the country's top suppliers of clean energy.
Last year, more than 54 percent of PG&E's electricity mix came from sources that are renewable or carbon-free, including clean hydroelectric and nuclear power. A recent report by Ceres and Clean Edge ranked PG&E among the top utilities nationwide in both renewable energy sales and energy efficiency savings. In 2012, PG&E's carbon dioxide emissions rate was about one-third of the national utility average.
Since 2002, PG&E has signed more than 156 contracts for nearly 11,000 megawatts (MW) of renewable power. The largest sources of renewable energy in PG&E's contract portfolio are wind, solar, and geothermal, followed by bioenergy and small hydro (see chart).
Among the large projects that came on line in 2013 were the California Valley Solar Ranch, a 250 MW solar PV facility in San Luis Obispo County; the Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System, a large solar thermal project in San Bernardino County; and the 150-MW Mesquite Solar 1 project in Arizona.
PG&E uses competitive contracting to keep the incremental cost of renewable energy as low as possible to its customers. But the utility notes in its latest report to the CPUC that state legislation mandating the 33 percent RPS makes it hard to buy energy from lower-cost projects that are out of state, even though California benefits from measures to reduce carbon emissions anywhere on the globe.
"These new requirements may increase the cost to customers of achieving 33 percent, and such costs may contribute over time to an erosion of customer support for the RPS Program requirements," the report notes. "PG&E recommends that the Commission establish a meaningful RPS Procurement cost limitation, as required by statute, in an expedited fashion in order to preserve publish support for the program and to prevent disproportionate rate impacts from RPS-eligible procurement."