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Greentech Media: The 4 Things PG&E Must Do to Survive and Thrive Post-Bankruptcy

Posted by Jeff St. John on Jun 17, 2020

Greentech Media covered how PG&E could recover from bankruptcy, quoting AEE's Amisha Rai. Read excerpts below and the entire GTM piece here.

PG&E faces a long and difficult road ahead. The San Francisco-based utility is emerging from bankruptcy with a massive debt load that could make it harder to raise the tens of billions of dollars of investment needed to prevent its power grid from causing more devastating wildfires. It’s struggling to find cost-effective ways to protect millions of customers from fire-prevention blackouts that may need to continue for years...

The CPUC is working on a microgrid proceeding to allow these kinds of cooperative efforts, and state lawmakers are debating several bills this year to fast-track key community resiliency efforts, said Amisha Rai, West Coast managing director for Advanced Energy Economy

“How do you harness this microgrid capability around evacuation centers?” she asked. “Can you create community hubs around schools that may already have solar capacity? Can you also think about mobile source power, like electric school buses that are being deployed across the state?"

"The key thing hanging over everyone’s head is the cost,” Rai said. “There is no silver bullet on that, and it’s an even more heightened concern given the state of the economy...” 

PG&E has identified “potential growth opportunities” in its rate base from additional wildfire-mitigation spending, EV charging infrastructure, grid modernization and investing in distributed microgrids. The question is whether such investments would yield results that eventually lessen customer costs. 

For example, PG&E already has CPUC approval for more than $250 million in EV charging infrastructure projects, largely centered on trucks, buses and work vehicles, that have been sidelined by its bankruptcy. Moving quickly on that work could not only boost its rate base but would “actually put downward pressure on rates,”  AEE’s Rai said. That’s because increased electricity sales for EV charging can feed back into reduced customer rates under California’s revenue decoupling regime...

While these may be less immediately pressing problems for PG&E than preventing fires, backing up high-outage-risk customers and maintaining its financial viability, they won’t get any easier to solve by postponing debate over them, AEE’s Rai said. 

“It’s really important for PG&E to come out with a strong plan for how it’s facing these challenges, how it’s aligned with the state’s plans, and how it’s going to meet the objectives that state policymakers have set for them,” she said. “There are a lot more questions than answers right now. But the time to have that conversation is right now...”

Read the entire GTM piece here.

Topics: AEE In The News