US: PG&E unveils green energy program

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PG&E says it devised the program in response to requests from customers, elected officials, and the environmental community for more ways to promote renewable energy.

It explains that the Green Option would allow customers to support 100 percent renewable energy for a "modest premium" of around US$6 per month. It adds that only those who choose to participate in the program will pay for the renewable energy, and that they may opt out at any time.

In a statement released, PG&E says it will "buy renewable energy certificates to match the portion of each participating electric customer’s energy that is not already covered by PG&E’s eligible renewable energy deliveries." It continues, "These certificates represent proof that specific quantities of electricity were generated from renewable sources such as wind and solar." To certify the program, it says that it will employ the services of Green-e Energy, a certifier of voluntary renewable energy programs in the U.S.

Helen Burt, senior vice president and chief customer officer of PG&E commented, "We have heard from many of our customers … who want to do even more to support clean energy and the green economy. Our Green Option, backed by an independent third-party’s environmental certification, will give them that choice."

The program proposal has garnered support from the likes of Berkeley Mayor, Tom Bates, and Peter Miller, a senior scientist with the Natural Resources Defense Council. "We’re delighted to see PG&E take leadership and create a consumer-driven program that’s a win-win for Californians and the environment," stated Miller.

PG&E says it generates over 50 percent of its electricity from renewable sources. In a recent study by the Solar Electric Power Association (SEPA), PG&E was identified as the most "solar-active" utility, having installed 228 megawatts worth of photovoltaic systems in 2011. The utility additionally integrated over 13,600 customer-cited projects.

SEPA went onto say that solar electricity procured by utilities is essential for "rapid solar market expansion" in the U.S. In 2011, it said utility-driven procurement represented a massive 39 percent of 2011’s new solar capacity, compared to just nine percent in 2008. It adds that this could increase to 1.5 gigawatts this year.