Feb 26, 2009
No, PG&E didn’t *actually* change its name, but they did announce a major plan to build 500 MW of solar power of their very own. And while it’s true that, in this context, “Solar” falls under the “Electric” category, it’s kind of amazing to think that utility juggernauts like PG&E (as well as Southern California Edison and Duke Energy and NRG Energy) – which were once fossil fuel behemoths – are now building solar power plants of their own.
The 500 megawatts will be broken up into projects ranging from 1 to 20 MW each, and PG&E (whose CEO, Peter Darbee, is pictured above) will sign contracts with smaller solar companies to do the actual building. That’s wonderful news for those solar companies, because their investments and funding are mostly drying up these days. The $1.4 billion that PG&E is planning on investing in this project could take care of that problem for the companies lucky enough to win contracts.
How is PG&E going to pay for it? Well, they will raise rates by about 1%, which means the average customer will see an increase of, on average, 32 cents. But it has also been pointed out that utilities stand to gain financially from the 30% tax credit that was offered for investments in solar technology last October. Why? Compared to utilities, startups have little income and pay little taxes – so there is little to gain from a tax cut. Utilities have tons of income, pay a lot in taxes, and as such can gain considerable by a 30% tax cut.
Utilities like PG&E also need to have 20% of their portfolio be renewable by 2010; another reason to start building solar.
If the project gets approved by the California Public Utilities Commission, it will be getting underway post haste. PG&E hopes the solar facilities will be operational by 2015, at which point they will be accounting for about 1.3% of the electricity the utility dishes out.
Like all green trends, let’s hope that what starts in Northern California spreads its way across the rest of the country speedily.