PG&E Wants to Lower Colleges’ GHG

Written by Neil Farrell

Neil has been a journalist covering the Estero Bay Area for over 27 years. He’s won numerous journalism awards in several different categories over his career.

March 26, 2022

Pacific Gas & Electric is proposing a new program for universities and state colleges that would reduce the schools’ emissions and aid in the fight against climate change, the company announced last week.

On March 17, PG&E said if the California Public Utilities Commission approves the program, they “would team up with the University of California and California State University systems to introduce a ‘Clean Energy Optimization Pilot’ [CEOP] to campuses across Northern and Central California.”

The company said Southern California Edison already has such a program for the schools in its service area. The program is intended to reduce so-called “green house gas” (GHG) emissions the schools release every day. 

“Reducing greenhouse gas emissions is one of the most critical and impactful steps an organization can take to reduce its environmental impact,” said Aaron August, PG&E vice president of business development and customer engagement. “Innovative and collaborative programs like the Clean Energy Optimization Pilot [CEOP] are essential to the future of a clean California, and PG&E is proud to collaborate with California universities on this exciting proposal.”

PG&E’s application with the CPUC calls for spending $50 million in “unallocated GHG auction revenues over a four-year period,” reads a news release. “Funding would result from California’s Cap-and-Trade Program, not from customer rates.”

Simply put, “cap and trade” is a common term for a government regulatory program designed to limit, or cap, the total level of emissions of certain chemicals, particularly carbon dioxide, as a result of industrial activity.

According to the website www.carbonbrief.org, “Cap and trade requires large emitters such as power plants, refineries and factories to buy permits for the greenhouse gases they release. Distributors of natural gas, gasoline, liquid petroleum gas, and diesel fuels must cover emissions from fuels they sell. The scheme limits the total number of permits available so that overall emissions stay within the cap.

California, one the US’s largest emitting states, has committed to reduce its emissions to 1990 levels by 2020, to 40% below 1990 levels by 2030 and to 80% below 1990 levels by 2050.”

Tens of millions of dollars are generated every year by the State’s auctioning off pollution credits under the cap-and-trade program.

PG&E’s CEOP would reimburse for retrofitting school buildings to be more energy efficient; building new construction efficiently with energy usage top of mind; investing in on-site renewables, such as solar, and energy storage; and, installing electric vehicle charging stations and electrifying customers’ fleets to run on electricity.

If the CPUC approves of plan, PG&E said it could get started next year.

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