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Leah Louis-Prescott's picture
Associate Rocky Mountain Institute

Supporting city and state efforts to eliminate fossil fuel use in buildings with Rocky Mountain Institute. Fellowship Coordinator for the Clean Energy Leadership Institute (CELI). Alumna of...

  • Member since 2020
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  • Jul 7, 2020
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Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E), California’s largest combined gas and electric utility, became the first dual-fuel utility in the country to formally support ending new gas hookups in buildings. In a letter to the California Energy Commission (CEC) this week, PG&E endorsed efficient, all-electric new construction as part of the state’s Title 24 energy code process.

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Matt Chester's picture
Matt Chester on Jul 7, 2020

By publicly supporting an ambitious new building code, PG&E indicates that it is willing to forgo future gas investments on behalf of its customers and the state’s climate goals

It seems like this is key-- PG&E will forego future gas investments, but it's not a losing proposition for them given that they also have the electric investments to come from it. Obviously I wouldn't expect an all-gas utility to support such a measure and would of course spend big to fight against it. How do you foresee the fight from gas utilities (in CA and in any other states that would consider such a measure) playing out? Would there be an end game? Can gas utilities start to try and diversify now?

Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on Jul 7, 2020

"It seems like this is key -- PG&E will forgot (forego) future gas investments...."

But that's not what the letter says, Matt. PG&E Vice President Robert Kenney says his company will

"....avoid investments in new gas assets that might later prove underutilized..."

Underutilitized? PG&E will sell 3.47 times as much natural gas if California's homes go all-electric:

"The loss in efficiency over the full scale of the electric cycle (from power plant to your house to your cooktop) means that electric stoves produce more greenhouse gas emissions than gas stoves."

Which is Greener, a Gas or Electric Stove?

Same goes for gas furnaces, the highest-consuming gas appliance in most households.

Given PG&E is being paid to burn as much gas as it possibly can. from the company's perspective both Diablo Canyon Power Plant and the environment can go to hell.

Joe Deely's picture
Joe Deely on Jul 8, 2020

Let's remember - on the electric side PG&E doesn't really provide much generation - most of their customer base has moved over to CCAs.  By 2025, even more will have moved over.

By the way, here is 2018 Power mix for PG&E.

 

Matt Chester's picture
Matt Chester on Jul 8, 2020

Good point-- so what do you think is the long-term play? Would this be a move they would be making if it weren't for the bankruptcy mess?

Joe Deely's picture
Joe Deely on Jul 8, 2020

Not sure... perhaps PG&E will do anything to stay as an independent entity.

Plus it will take a long time for electrification of buildings to occur.

 

Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on Jul 8, 2020

Let's remember there is no electric "side" of Pacific Gas & Electric Corporation. All operations of PG&E, Inc., including gas procurement, sales, and distribution, and electricity generation, procurement, transmission, and distribution, are provided by subsidiaries under the control of its Board of Directors.

Let's also remember CCAs are not regulated by the California Public Utilities Commission, and have no obligation to allow customers or anyone else to examine their books (they won't, I've tried).

Given all of the above, what evidence do you have CCAs amount to anything more than empty business constructs, ones designed to give customers the illusion they're using something "greener" than the same mix PG&E serves to everyone in its service area?

Joe Deely's picture
Joe Deely on Jul 9, 2020

Given all of the above, what evidence do you have CCAs amount to anything more than empty business constructs, ones designed to give customers the illusion they're using something "greener" than the same mix PG&E serves to everyone in its service area?

Greener than the PG&E mix - that would be tough... 

 

By the way Bob... its not just the California Gas Cabal that is in on this CCA scam.  I just found out FERC is too.

 

 

Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on Jul 9, 2020

How did I know that PG&E was the source of your colorful pie chart before I clicked on the link? It's charming that you implicitly trust the private corporate monopoly taking Californians' money for an accurate accounting of their sources of electricity.

And you conveniently skipped over the main point of my post: that unregulated CCAs add absolutely nothing of value to PG&E's electricity, except offering "100% renewable" plans that are anything but. For example: do you have a colorful pie chart to show where "East Bay Community Energy" gets its electricity at night, and when the wind isn't blowing, for its "100% renewable" plan? Of course you do - but EBCE would never admit it. It's exactly the same as the chart above, the same electricity customers were getting before EBCE ever existed.

For a moment let's pretend PG&E/EBCE's chart is accurate. Looks like a full half of it comes from non-renewable sources, and a full 1/3 comes from Diablo Canyon (nuclear) Power Plant. I suppose EBCE, with its magic renewables wand, is replacing the radioactive electrons leading to its anti-nuclear customers with electricity from a far-off land where the wind always blows, and the sun shines all night long. Hmm?

Joe Deely's picture
Joe Deely on Jul 9, 2020

Bob,

Its really not that hard to do the math to prove/disprove the data that - PG&E and/or the CCAs - must provide to both the CPUC and FERC. 

It's simple arithmetic - but you would have to do some analysis/work.

Looking forward to seeing your results.

By the way, that chart was from 2018 - the PG&E numbers for 2019 will be almost all Zero Carbon. Their 2019 NG generation was "extra" and sold on open CAISO market. However, I'm sure you will see that when you do your analysis.

Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on Jul 10, 2020

"Its really not that hard to do the math to prove/disprove the data that - PG&E and/or the CCAs - must provide to both the CPUC and FERC. "

Nope. It's FERC alone, which has neither the resources nor the authority to prosecute scam artists in one state - much less fifty:

D.05-12-041, p. 9 “Nothing in [Public Utilities Code section 366.2] requires the Commission [CPUC] to set CCA rates or regulate the quality of its services."

New CPUC Regulation of Community Choice Aggregators

"Their 2019 NG generation was "extra" and sold on open CAISO market. However, I'm sure you will see that when you do your analysis."

Actually I was waiting to see your analysis showing PG&E didn't buy most (or all) of that "extra" gas generation itself. Will that be forthcoming?

Daniel Duggan's picture
Daniel Duggan on Jul 10, 2020

An efficient gas boiler combined with good insulation and an air-to-air waste heat recovery system results in a very low energy house without the burden of high-tec, high lifetime cost heat pumps and energy storage.  A better solution than than relying on just one source of energy for home and transport as proposed by proponents of heat pumps and electric cars.  A single energy source is a single point of failure, and fail it will when its variable renewable electricity provided via an overloaded grid.

However, if that's what you want in your home, go for it.

 

Matt Chester's picture
Matt Chester on Jul 13, 2020

I haven't heard this argument before-- that each home needs to diversify its energy sources for some sort of added security? Is the idea really that 'well if the electrical system goes down, at least I have gas to heat the home or gasoline to drive my car'? 

Daniel Duggan's picture
Daniel Duggan on Jul 13, 2020

That's the idea Matt, it’s a planning requirement in some countries to have more than one source of heat in a house. 

Matt Chester's picture
Matt Chester on Jul 13, 2020

So they have gas heaters and electric heaters-- I can see some value to the redundancy in areas where the cold weather can be particularly dangerous, but how did the EVs come into play in your initial comment?

Daniel Duggan's picture
Daniel Duggan on Jul 14, 2020

Matt, a typical redundant home heating arrangement is a central heating system which could be gas or oil fired, or a heat pump system, plus a log burning stove as back-up. 

One of EVs disadvantages is reliance on a constantly available electricity supply, in comparison a very low emissions Euro-6 diesel car can have a range of up to 1000 miles, and the owner can if they chose, store 1000 liters or more of fuel in a tank in their garden, as done for oil heating.  You may believe electricity is reliable, however the statistics prove differently.  Ireland for example has approximately two million homes and a first world dependable electricity supply, nevertheless it is not unusual to have over 700,000 electricity supply reconnections per year following storm damage.  That is more than one power outage per three homes, per year.  I suspect the numbers for other countries are similar, or higher.  In comparison our gas supply is ultra-reliable.  The current transition in many countries to very high percentages of variable renewable electricity generation will place huge strains on the grid’s ability to supply the required power 24/7/365, it is not unreasonable to anticipate electricity becoming significantly more expensive overall, and pending the build-out of very large scale hydrogen production and use, not be universally available whenever required as it is today.  Do you really want an all-electric home?   

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