By Matt Nauman
SAN FRANCISCO – PG&E will invest about $1.2 billion in new electric lines, gas pipelines and other upgrades that will modernize the city’s infrastructure and improve safety and reliability over the next five years, PG&E’s Tony Earley announced today (Feb. 27).
The news came at the 2013 CityBeat Breakfast sponsored by the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce. Earley, the chairman, CEO and president of PG&E Corporation, was joined by San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee on a panel during the event.
“Investing in the safety and reliability of our gas and electric infrastructure is critical on so many levels,” Earley said. “Not only does it provide immediate job opportunities, it also prepares us to meet the future demands of our customers—like the giants of technology and research in San Francisco who are leading the way for California’s economic growth.”
Earley added, “This really is a comprehensive plan. It not only focuses on downtown and the business district but also on San Francisco’s neighborhoods.”
The $1.2 billion investment covers a wide variety of new and ongoing infrastructure projects, including building new high-voltage electric lines that will improve disaster resiliency, upgrading electrical substations, replacing natural gas pipelines, and improving electrical distribution systems throughout the city.
Transmission lines and the removal of cast-iron pipe
The list of PG&E projects ranges from a new 3.5-mile, 230kV electric transmission line to upgrades at the Mission and Embarcadero substations to completing the cleanup of the former Hunters Point Power Plant site to replacing the final 26 miles of cast-iron gas pipe in San Francisco with modern, corrosion-resistant plastic piping.
“The reliability of our electric and natural gas infrastructure is critical to our city’s economic growth, public safety and disaster preparedness and recovery,” said Mayor Lee. “I’m very pleased to see this much-needed and unprecedented commitment to investment in our critical infrastructure, transparency and long-term capital planning from PG&E through this program.”
The approximate $1.2 billion represents a larger investment than the previous five years’ infrastructure spending in San Francisco. That work has helped PG&E steadily improve its electric reliability in the city. Since 2007, both the frequency and duration of power outages have declined.
Earley acknowledged that the wires, pipes and power plants that helped fuel California’s economic growth are aging and nearing the limits of their life expectancy in some cases.
“It’s getting creaky just like me,” he said, prompting a laugh from the 1,000-person audience full of business and union leaders.
Beyond the infrastructure work, Earley said, PG&E has committed to doing what it can to improve the aesthetics in neighborhoods where it has facilities. The Mission Substation, at the intersection of 8th and Mission, is a good example. Besides upgrading the equipment on the inside, PG&E will be working to cleanup and improve the building’s exterior, too.
Lee noted that 2,500 new housing units are being constructed nearby.
‘A trajectory of economic growth’
PG&E will be working with San Francisco’s CityBuild program to continue its efforts to cultivate a local workforce.
The CityBeat Breakfast was held at the San Francisco Marriott Marquis. The panel with Earley and Lee was moderated by Gabriel Metcalf, the executive director of the nonprofit San Francisco Planning and Urban Research Association (SPUR).
“PG&E, in partnership with the Chamber and the city, is helping San Francisco remain a world-class resilient city as we continue on a trajectory of economic vitality and growth,” said Bob Linscheid, president & CEO of the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce.
Other speakers at the event included Bernard Tyson, incoming chairman and CEO of Kaiser Permanente; Wade Rose, the vice president of external and government relations with Dignity Health; and Greg Cosko, CEO of Hathaway Dinwiddie Construction.