Viewpoints

PG&E must honor clean energy commitments

California has made world-leading progress in advancing climate and clean energy goals, but an enormous amount of that success could unravel in the Pacific Gas and Electric Company’s bankruptcy proceedings.

Gov. Newsom has demonstrated his clear grasp of the complexity of the issue and his commitment to continue forward progress on clean energy. He and the Public Utilities Commission should seize every opportunity to protect California’s clean energy industries from the bureaucracy of bankruptcy court.

PG&E’s bankruptcy filing threatens to halt California’s clean energy progress in its tracks. PG&E currently has at least $34 billion of renewable energy contracts on its books lasting through 2043, according to the Federal Regulatory Commission. Bankruptcy proceedings could allow PG&E to essentially tear up these agreements.

State officials should urge PG&E to honor these contracts and the deposits for new projects in a PG&E bankruptcy, or restructuring process, in order to preserve the state’s ability to finance and build new renewable energy projects needed to meet California’s climate targets.

Wind and solar developers cannot successfully advance new projects in a business environment shrouded in uncertainty. The resulting sustained pause in investments and development would jeopardize California’s progress on renewable energy and its climate change goals for the foreseeable future.

Opinion

Gov. Newsom, the Legislature and the PUC should seek immediate assurance from PG&E that its energy supplier contracts will be affirmed, and that payment for service is continued per contract terms. They should demand that investments in transmission upgrades and interconnections needed to bring on new renewable energy investments are used for their intended purpose.

Bold leadership is essential for California to continue delivering safe, affordable, reliable and clean energy.

American wind energy was born in the California desert during the 1980s. Today, the state is the nation’s undisputed solar leader. Altogether, California is home to more than 28,000 megawatts of solar and wind energy. This number is growing, along with the tens of thousands of good-paying jobs the two technologies support.

Today, more than 90,000 Californians are employed by the solar or wind industries. California’s willingness to incubate these technologies in their early stages – and the PUC’s approval of some of the first-ever clean energy contracts – drove this growth and set the stage for the rest of the nation.

Just last year, the California legislature passed a historic 60 percent Renewable Portfolio Standard, a remarkable target considering California is home to the world’s fifth largest economy and currently only gets around a third of its electricity from renewables. Yet technological innovation has made such ambitious targets achievable, as wind and solar have both become more reliable and vastly more affordable in recent years.

Now Californians don’t have to choose between growing their economy and protecting the environment — they can do both.

There’s no doubt the complexities associated with PG&E’s bankruptcy are enormous. It’s absolutely imperative to protect victims, workers and consumers during this process. We also believe it’s imperative for the state to uphold its clean energy leadership and aggressive carbon reduction goals.

What we need is a show of leadership from the governor, Legislature and the management of PG&E to assure investors and voters that investments made in California’s clean energy future will be honored. What’s at stake is California’s spot as a world leader in clean energy and its commitment to protecting future generations from further devastation.

Tom Kiernan is the president and CEO of the American Wind Energy Association. Abigail Ross Hopper is the president and CEO of the Solar Energy Industries Association.
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