PG&E’s Clean Energy Reduces Greenhouse Gas Emissions

By Matthew Sturm

In its ongoing effort to provide cleaner energy for its customers, PG&E continued to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions from its delivered electricity in 2011, achieving the lowest level of emissions 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 6 percent to 14.7 million metric tons in 2011. Its emissions rate fell 12 percent to 393 pounds of CO2 per megawatt-hour of electricity delivered to its customers. PG&E’s emissions rate was 40 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 the prior year of 2010.

PG&E’s total emissions from delivered electricity declined owing to an increase in the amount of renewable and large hydro electricity in its power portfolio and the expanded use of cleaner fossil-fueled electricity. The latter included the first full year of operations for two new, state-of-the-art natural gas-fired plants owned and operated by PG&E.

In fact, nearly 60 percent of PG&E’s power came from a combination of non-greenhouse gas emitting and renewable sources in 2011. The mix consisted of nuclear (22 percent), large hydroelectric facilities (18 percent), and renewable resources (19 percent). The remaining portion came from natural gas (25 percent), other fossil (1 percent), and unspecified sources purchased through the wholesale power market (15 percent).

The 2011 numbers have just become available as PG&E’s voluntarily reported greenhouse gas emissions lags due to the time necessary for a thorough, third-party verification of the data in accordance with the standards of The Climate Registry.

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. PG&E continues to make steady progress toward California’s target of 33 percent renewables by 2020.

Matthew Sturm is a senior program manager in PG&E’s Corporate Sustainability department. Email him at


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