PG&E expands solar plans
Peter Darbee, CEO of Pacific Gas & Electric (NYSE: PCG), last week announced the company's plan to invest in solar power plants and rooftop solar panels throughout California. The actual size of the investment was not mentioned, but Darbee described it as "significant."
If the utility, the largest in the state, follows through on its plans, it would mark a new era for the company. It would be the first time PG&E builds and retains ownership of its own solar facilities rather than purchasing clean energy through third-party sources.
Darbee, who has led the utility since 1999, says the utility plans to invest in the construction of central solar plants as well as the delivery of solar projects to communities throughout California that show a desire to develop clean energy programs. The commitment to invest in solar is another step PG&E is taking to meet the obligations set by California’s Renewable Portfolio Standard requiring the state’s investor-owned utilities to obtain 20 percent of its energy from renewable sources by 2010.
Investors in renewable energy receive a 30 percent tax credit, but as the current recession has sent profits on a downward slope, fewer companies are showing the willingness to put money toward such projects.
PG&E, however, has already signed deals with several solar power start-ups such as Oakland-based solar provider BrightSource, who has promised the delivery of 900 megawatts by 2011, and Ausra.
PG&E anticipates making a regulatory filing with the commission to invest in renewables within the next quarter of 2009.