Utility giant embraces a future with renewables
California utility giant PG&E has made it one of its business goals to invest in clean energy. In the last few years, the company has signed contracts with renewable energy providers in the areas of solar, wind, wave and biogas. In this video, correspondent Sumi Das meets Ha LaFlash, director of emerging clean tech energy policy. According to La Flash, while going green will cost more up front, it's the right business decision because the move to clean energy by its millions of customers, could one day make a meaningful impact on the environment.
Sumi Das: When people think of utility companies, they imagine large power plants burning fossil fuels 24 hours a day. But PG&E is trying to change that perception by investing in clean energy. Their motivation: To help fight the climate crisis. Hal LaFlash is the director of emerging clean tech policy at the company. He says while going green will cost more up front, it's the right business decision for PG&E and its 15 million California customers.
Hal LaFlash: The renewables do cost a little bit more than conventional power, but you're getting a carbon-free source and ultimately in the long run it will end up being in a better position for customers.
Sumi Das: And even though customers will have to pay more in the beginning, clean energy is attractive to those who want to be part of the Green Movement. In the last few years, PG&E has been busy making deals with the renewable energy providers from wind, to solar, to wave energy.
Hal LaFlash: We've signed 33 contracts in the last five years with almost 2,000 megawatts of the new renewable generation, and now nineteen percent of our load is under contract for renewable generation.
Sumi Das: One of the standout contracts is with Solar Energy provider Solel. Soon the company will supply enough energy to power 400,000 California homes. The project will rely on 1.2 million mirrors to capture the sun's heat in California's Mojave Desert. But while clean energy from solar and wind have a proven track record, some renewable technologies are less tested. One of the ideas they're exploring is converting cow manure into power, and with roughly 17 million cows in California, there's a lot of poop that can be reproduced.
Hal LaFlash: Biogas gives us the opportunity to actually make a substitute renewable natural gas that we can put in the pipeline and fuel some of these plants that would otherwise be natural gas field.
Sumi Das: As for the financial impact, the cost are neutral, the benefits are to the environment. We've seen how the sun is a great source for converting energy, but PG&E is also looking at another very important natural resource, the ocean. PG&E has partnered with Finavera Renewables to harness the ocean's energy and convert it for utility purposes. It's known as wave power.
Jennifer Zerwer: There's a variety of technologies being developed right now. One technology, the company that we signed the purchase agreement with uses buoies that float in the water. The up and down action of the water drives a set of pumps that then pressurizes sea water which turns the turbine generating electricity.
Sumi Das: While many of the technologies you've just seen are still in their nascent stages, PG&E believes the eventual move to clean energy by its millions of customers, could one day make a meaningful impact on the environment. I'm Sumi Das reporting for BNET.