PG&E files $7.4bn clean energy and grid resilience plan

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US utility Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) has filed a $7 .4 billion grid modernisation and resiliency proposal with the California Public Utilities Commission.

The proposal, if approved, will enable PG&E to invest $7.4 billion to enhance its grid network by deploying new and advanced digital technologies, improve resilience of the grid against wildfires and other harsh weather conditions and to expand its portfolio of renewable energy resources. The programme would help the utility to ensure uninterupted power supply for its 16 million gas and electric customers.

The plan covers programmes to be made as from 2023 through 2026, including:

Wildfire safety

  • Hardening power lines and placing more power lines underground to reduce wildfire risk, and installing sectionalizing devices to reduce the customer impacts and size of Public Safety Power Shutoffs (PSPS);
  • Testing and using new tools and technologies to better pinpoint how to best prevent and respond to the increasing risk of wildfires;
  • Meeting and exceeding state vegetation safety standards to manage trees and other vegetation located near power lines that could cause a wildfire or power outage;
  • Deploying LiDAR technology and remote sensing data in extreme and elevated fire-risk areas to validate vegetation management work;

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Electric system safety and reliability

  • Replacing a greater number of wood poles and infrastructure identified through PG&E’s Enhanced Inspection Programme;
  • Adding additional distribution protection device zones that reduce or mitigate the duration and number of customers impacted by electrical outages;
  • Improving critical systems and communications networks to manage the growing number of devices on a more dynamic electric grid and protect it from cybersecurity threats;
  • Enabling behind-the-meter distributed generation resources to better serve customer needs; and
  • Replacing transformers in high-rise buildings with dry-type units to minimize fire risk.

Clean energy

  • Investing in electric distribution capacity upgrades to support customer at-home electric vehicle charging demand;
  • Investing in more electric vehicle charging infrastructure at PG&E locations across its service area and adding over 1,000 electric vehicles to PG&E’s fleet by 2026;
  • Operating the Elkhorn Battery Energy Storage System, a 183-megawatt storage system at the Moss Landing Substation in Monterey County;
  • Uprating the three units at Helms Pumped Storage Facility to increase the amount of clean, hydroelectric power that PG&E can provide customers during peak periods, and help integrate additional intermittent renewable resources; and
  • Investing in projects to mitigate the risk of uncontrolled water release from its hydroelectric dams.

Gas system safety and reliability

  • Replacing 222.5 miles of distribution main pipeline in 2023 increasing to 245 miles in 2026;
  • Increasing the number of miles of gas transmission pipeline that can be inspected by state-of-the-art tools that run inside the pipeline to more than 69% of the system by the end of 2036;
  • Strength testing or replacing approximately 174 miles of gas transmission pipe in the rate case period to reconfirm maximum allowable operating pressures and to assess integrity;
  • Employing advanced mobile leak detection and quantification technology to quickly find and fix gas leaks to improve safety and reduce methane emissions;
  • Enhancing safety by installing secondary overpressure protection devices, such as slam shuts, at gas distribution and gas transmission pilot-operated regulator stations.

Robert Kenney, PG&E Vice President of Regulatory and External Affairs, said: “Our most important responsibility is the safety of the customers and communities we serve. These investments will strengthen our electric system against wildfire and other environmental risks, and enhance gas and electric system safety, while reinforcing our commitment to provide even more clean, renewable energy for California. Delivering for our hometowns, meeting the diverse energy needs of our customers, and building the safe, reliable and clean energy future they deserve are the energy priorities we are determined to achieve.”

This four-year proposal does not include electric transmission costs, state-mandated Public Purpose Programmes to support low-income customers and energy efficiency, or the actual commodity cost of gas and electricity. These costs are proposed through separate rate cases.

If the proposal is approved, the average residential customer bill is expected to increase about 5% annually, on average, from 2021 through 2026.