Tag Archives: Opinion

Opinion: How Lackluster Grid Maintenance Jeopardizes California’s Green Energy Future

By Ariel Cohen (Contributor), Forbes

In Part I of this story, I examined the factors that led to California’s now infamous ‘Camp Fire’ and the bankruptcy of the state’s largest utility, Pacific Gas and Electric Co. (PG&E). It turns out that while climate change, forest mismanagement, and overzealous lawmakers share some of the blame, PG&E is at the center of this multibillion-dollar catastrophe.

But in California, it is ratepayers, shareholders, and green energy that will pay the greatest price. PG&E has been a key partner in California’s green energy agenda, investing aggressively in solar, wind, and other renewable energy projects over the past decade. Last year renewables accounted for 33% of PG&E’s power mix — an impressive amount by industry standards. However, PG&E’s bankruptcy in the wake of the Camp Fire means that a lack of trust (and credit) in the utility could imperil the state’s green energy sector, and with it dreams of 100% carbon-free power by 2045.

Green power is now an uncertain space to do business in California, and we are already seeing the consequences: a major PG&E solar farm – Topaz – had their credit rating downgraded even before PG&E officially filed for bankruptcy, imperiling the clean electricity it provides to roughly 180,000 homes in California. The credit agency Fitch Ratings recently downgraded NextEra Energy’s 250-megawatt Genesis Solar project in the Sonoran Desert, citing its link to PG&E. Others are on the chopping block.

More critically, bankruptcy court might also jeopardize PG&E’s many long-term power purchase agreements (PPAs) with renewable energy providers. From a financial perspective, it makes sense for PG&E to tear up these contracts and start anew. The falling cost of wind and solar means that energy prices negotiated in 2012 and 2013 are three to four times higher per megawatt hour (MWh) than they are today. According to Bloomberg New Energy Finance (NEF), the estimated remaining obligation on these PPAs are more than $2 billion, though they would be worth only around $800 million at current market rates. Restructuring these contracts in court would increase cashflow, affording PG&E a much-needed liquidity boost to help deal with mounting liabilities.

Read full article at Forbes