By David Kligman
SAN FRANCISCO — Chinese energy officials visited PG&E’s headquarters on Tuesday (Jan. 14) to learn firsthand how the utility works closely with the state of California to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and protects the environment with its mix of renewable power and many energy efficiency programs.
The 12 government employees, all from Shanghai or Guangdong in the southern part of China, requested the meeting with PG&E as part of its two-week U.S. fact-finding visit. They also were in Washington at the Environmental Protection Agency and will travel later this week to Sacramento to talk to the California Air Resources Board.
“It’s very impressive,” Jin Li, who works for the Shanghai Environment and Energy Exchange Co., said when asked her impressions of PG&E’s accomplishments.
Li said she and her colleagues were most interested in learning about PG&E’s efforts to support the California Global Warming Solutions Act, a 2006 law that requires the state to cut greenhouse gas emission to 1990 levels by 2020.
Under the law’s cap-and-trade program, utilities and other covered industries can purchase allowances at auction to help cover carbon dioxide emissions. In order to mitigate costs for utility customers, the Air Resources Board has given the utilities allowances that must be sold at auction. Compliance with the emissions cap began last year.
Bingqing Lu, who works in research and development for the Shanghai Environment and Energy Exchange, said she was most surprised to learn of PG&E’s commitment to energy efficiency.
“It’s good for us to see how PG&E has mitigated their greenhouse gas emissions,” said Lu. “We want to learn what others are doing.”
With the help of a translator, a four-person PG&E team explained PG&E’s many environmental successes. Among them:
- PG&E’s resource mix, which by 2020 is projected to be 64 percent carbon-free with much of that growth expected to come from wind and solar
- How energy efficiency in California has saved the state more than $56 billion since 1970 and helped avoid building 30 natural gas-burning power plants
- A benchmarking of PG&E’s carbon dioxide emissions, which in 2009 was less than the California average and far less than the U.S. average
Britta Victor, a corporate sustainability representative for PG&E, told the group that the utility’s sustainability initiatives show its commitment to helping the community.
She pointed to PG&E’s solar habitat program. Since 2007, PG&E has spent more than $8 million to fund the full cost of solar electric systems on every new Habitat for Humanity home built in Northern and Central California. The energy savings is equivalent to reducing more than 10,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide from the environment.
“All of these programs you’ve heard about today help PG&E have some of the nation’s cleanest energy,” Victor said.
Claire Halbrook, a state agency relations representative for PG&E who discussed cap-and-trade, later told Currents that PG&E’s achievements can be replicated elsewhere — even in China.
“What I really hope they saw was that companies can be stewards of the environment and still be a private company,” Halbrook said.
Erik Olsen of PG&E’s energy efficiency strategy department also spoke to the group. He said it was high praise that Chinese officials chose PG&E to help guide their environmental policies.
“It reinforces our position of leadership,” he said. “The fact that other outside entities and even people from other countries are coming to us to hear more about what we’re doing and learn from us — it’s a big compliment.”
At the end of the meeting, the guests were given a copy of PG&E’s most recent Corporate Responsibility and Sustainability Report. Later they saw PG&E’s wide range of alternative fuel vehicles and sat inside a VIA Extended Range Electric pickup with exportable power.
Halbrook concluded the meeting with mention of an upcoming and important holiday in the Chinese community.
“新年快乐!” said Halbrook, speaking in Mandarin.
English translation: Happy New Year.
Email David Kligman at David.Kligman@pge.com.