The Path to Drawdown: Electrical Utilities
Electric utilities play a critical role in the path to a world of net-zero emissions. They provide the connective tissue between key Drawdown solutions: renewable energy generation and energy storage. Through long-term power purchase agreements (PPAs), utilities enable renewable energy developers to secure buyers for their power and unlock project finance. Utility companies also often control electrical grids, putting them in the position to prioritize (or de-prioritize) the extent to which the grid is outfitted for the intermittency of solar and wind power generation. They're also the key actors in green-lighting the development of large-scale energy storage.
There are dozens of publicly-traded utilities on the New York stock exchange (such as Duke, NextEra, Dominion, Xcel, PG&E, etc.), and many of them are purchasing or developing renewable power capacities to provide clean electricity to customers across large regions. We use a stringent criteria to determine which utilities are significantly contributing to the low-carbon energy transition.
PG&E Corporation (stock ticker: PCG) is a holding company whose main operating subsidiary is Pacific Gas and Electric Company, a public utility operating in northern and central California. They generate revenue mainly through the sale and delivery of electricity and natural gas to customers. PG&E is headquartered in San Francisco, California.
PCG's Role in Drawdown
PG&E produces 52% of their power from renewables, 44% from nuclear, and 3% from non fossil fuel combustion. They don't produce any of their power from coal and goes beyond what's required by state regulation for energy portfolios. That means they pass the Climate Index criteria for inclusion.
PCG: What We Like
PG&E's sustainability reporting is very thorough, adhering to multiple reporting standards and providing a comprehensive set of statistics on their emissions as well as their resource use. This is rare among companies, and it allows stakeholders to accurately assess PG&E's environmental footprint.
PG&E is also committed to an ambitious emissions reduction goal for the short-term. Notable is their Million Ton Challenge, a five-year carbon reduction goal to avoid one million tons of cumulative GHG emissions from their operations between 2018 and 2022, compared to a 2016 baseline. They're doing this by:
- saving energy through energy-efficient and more sustainable facilities
- reducing methane emissions from natural gas operations
- continuing to deploy a smarter, cleaner fleet of PG&E vehicles
- adopting environmentally responsible products and services
2020 was the third year of PG&E's One Million Ton Challenge, and they were able to avoid 370,000 tons of CO2, with a total of more than 900,000 tons avoided to date. Also, ~85% of the electricity they supplied to customers was greenhouse gas-free in 2020.