California’s Largest Utility Progresses on Renewable Mandate

California’s largest utility company, Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) released its 2011 Corporate Responsibility and Sustainability Report. One of the highlights of the report is the progress the company has made toward meeting California’s requirement that 33 percent of the energy a utility company provides come from renewable sources. By the end of last year, renewables accounted for 19 percent of PG&E’s energy sources.

A big part of the renewable mix includes solar energy. Last year, PG&E brought three solar projects online in Fresno County: the 15 MW Westside Solar Station, 20 MW Stroud Solar Station, and 15 MW Five Points Solar Station. Together the solar projects produce enough electricity to power about 15,000 homes. In July of this year, PG&E brought three solar projects online in Fresno County that collectively provide 50 MW of energy. The company began site preparation to build two more solar projects in Fresno County and one in Kings County. Both Fresno and Kings County are in California’s San Joaquin Valley, a place with an abundance of sunshine. It makes perfect sense to build solar projects there.

Energy-related carbon emissions account for a whopping 98 percent of all U.S. carbon emissions, according to the Energy Information Administration. Therefore, it is necessary that a utility company work to reduce its emissions. In the CSR report, PG&E states that it is “keenly aware of its responsibility to both manage its emissions and work constructively to advance policies that put our state and the country on a cost-effective path toward a low-carbon economy.” In 2010, PG&E’s total carbon emissions from delivered electricity decreased by about 25 percent from 2009, which it attributes to an increase in the “amount of zero- and low-emitting electricity in our power portfolio (including hydro) and the expanded use of cleaner fossil-fueled electricity.” The same year, PG&E’s emissions rate was about 30 percent cleaner than the California average and over 60 percent cleaner than the national utility average.

Other highlights from the report include water, energy and waste reduction at PG&E facilities:

  • Reduced water use by six percent at 125 offices and service yards, exceeding its 5.7 percent target. The goal for this year is to achieve an additional two percent reduction at 135 sites
  • Reduced energy use by 4.8 percent at 168 offices and service yards last year, exceeding its 4.2 percent target. The goal for this year is to achieve an additional three percent reduction at 168 sites
  • Achieved an almost 60 percent waste diversion rate, exceeding its 55 percent target, which PG&E attributes to ensuring that bins were the right size, upgrading service, engaging employees, and adding composting in 15 locations. The goal for 2012 is to achieve a 73 percent waste diversion rate for all non-hazardous municipal waste

“Sustainability is rooted in PG&E’s long-standing commitment to the environment,” said Tony Earley, chairman, CEO and president of PG&E. “Sustainability is crucial to PG&E’s long-term success.”

“PG&E is working every day to drive sustainability across the business, at all levels, and this effort is inspired by the dedication and leadership of our employees,” said Ezra Garrett, vice president of community relations and chief sustainability officer of PG&E.

Photo: Flickr user, Selvig

Gina-Marie Cheeseman

Gina-Marie is a freelance writer and journalist armed with a degree in journalism, and a passion for social justice, including the environment and sustainability. She writes for various websites, and has made the 75+ Environmentalists to Follow list by

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