PG&E CEO Stresses Need for Bold Action, Collaboration

Peter%20Darbee.jpg At this week’s Ceres Conference, Peter Darbee, Chair, CEO and President of PG&E Corporation delivered an inspiring speech. As Darbee sees it, the key to a sustainable future is not technology, but rather working together as a functional, collaborative team, instead of the dysfunctional team that we often are. “We say we want renewable power,” but when push comes to shove people, in Nantucket for example, say “not in my backyard.”
Sustainability must be our number one priority, which will involve sacrifices and tradeoffs on all fronts. “We are faced with the greatest challenge mankind has ever faced,” Darbee explained. “We need to work together as a US team and as a world team with vision and values to overcome these great challenges for mankind.”
PG&E has sometimes received mixed reviews, but I was encouraged to hear its leader’s bleeding edge sustainable views. “People say [renewable energy] is too expensive, but they don’t have a clue how expensive it will be if we don’t deal with the problem…I know it’s exponentially cheaper to deal with fixing the problem now rather than waiting. That is crazy and reflects that people aren’t very thoughtful.”
Darbee described his vision of a bold future:
1. Plug in electric vehicles will be charged at night, and provide energy to the grid during the day
2. A home grid network will allow appliances to interact with each other. A computer will monitor energy prices and control energy accordingly, shifting demand to night when energy is inexpensive
3. Dynamic energy pricing will incentivize energy use when it’s in lower demand
4. Air conditioners will be smart so that they are off during the day and turn on just before you arrive at home
5. The key will be integrating these technologies – each one can save us a lot, but integration will create the real opportunity

Darbee explained the projects PG&E is working on to make this bold future a reality:
1. Energy efficiency solutions
2. Plug in hybrids
3. Demand management response which shifts energy use to later in the day
4. Energy efficiency implementation in homes in the community
5. Exploration of unconventional renewable sources such as wave, tidal, biogas, and most recently space energy
PG&E recently announced its partnership with Solaren Corp. to harvest solar energy in space. PG&E will only pay for energy to the extent that it is possible to collect. Darbee has undoubtedly received consternation for such a decision, but he backed it up saying, “So many times people say things won’t happen. Never say that, instead I try to think ‘How might that happen?’ Lots of people think PG&E has lost it…That’s what bold is all about. If everyone said yes, [that will work], that isn’t bold. If it does work, how extraordinary will that be?”

Amie runs Cobblestone Solutions, LLC, a consultancy focusing on business development, marketing, communications and strategy for mission driven companies. Previously, Amie served as Director of Business Development for Viv (a Bay Area environmental start-up), Program Manager for Social Venture Technology Group (a boutique consulting firm focused on measuring social and environmental impact), and Associate Consultant at Bain & Co (a global management consulting firm). She is particularly interested in innovations that reduce waste, altering consumer behavior for good, and leveraging the power of business to solve the climate crisis. You can read more from her on her blog, on, and on JustMeans.

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