By Jonathan Marshall
In its ongoing effort to provide cleaner energy for its customers, PG&E slashed the greenhouse gas emissions from its delivered electricity in 2010 to the lowest level since PG&E started publicly reporting in 2003. This maintains PG&E’s status as one of the cleanest utilities in the industry, according to the latest inventory report from The Climate Registry, a non-profit registry of greenhouse gas emissions for North America.
PG&E cut the total CO2 emissions from its electricity sales by about 25 percent to 15.6 million metric tons in 2010. Its emissions rate fell 23 percent to 445 pounds of CO2 per megawatt-hour of electricity delivered to its customers. PG&E’s emissions rate was 35 percent below the California average and only about one-third of the national utility average. PG&E’s emissions rate takes into account emissions from both PG&E-owned power generation and power purchased from third parties.
PG&E’s total emissions and its emissions rate were both the lowest on record. The previous low point was in 2006.
PG&E’s total emissions from delivered electricity declined owing to an increase in the amount of zero- and low-emitting electricity in its power portfolio and the expanded use of cleaner fossil-fueled electricity. The latter included two new, state-of-the-art natural gas-fired plants that PG&E brought into service in 2010.
In fact, more than half of PG&E’s power came from a combination of non-greenhouse gas emitting and renewable sources in 2010. The mix consisted of nuclear (23.8 percent), large hydroelectric facilities (15.6 percent), and renewable resources (15.9 percent). The remaining portion came from natural gas (19.6 percent), coal (1.0 percent), other fossil (1.2 percent), and unspecified sources purchased through the wholesale power market (22.9 percent).
From year to year several factors affect PG&E’s power mix and emissions, including demand growth and the availability of hydro power. At least one underlying trend is strongly favorable, however. In 2012, PG&E expects to source 20 percent of its electricity from renewable generation, a figure that is currently on track to hit 33 percent by 2020.
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