Did a California Utility Cook Data?
PG&E stands for Pacific Gas and Electric -- for all of you who haven't lived in California and been dependent on the ubiquitous company for your precious, life-giving air conditioning.
The utility, which supplies natural gas and electricity to most of the northern two-thirds of the Golden State, has been in the news recently because it has decided to shutter Diablo Canyon, California's last standing nuclear power plant, whose two reactors account for 20% of annual power production in PG&E’s territory.
PG&E claims that "California's energy landscape is changing dramatically with energy efficiency, renewables and storage being central to the state's energy policy. As we make this transition, Diablo Canyon's full output will no longer be required." The nuclear plant, burbles a press release, will be replaced, when it's finally turned off in 2025, "with a cost-effective, greenhouse gas free portfolio of energy efficiency, renewables and energy storage."
To which the skeptic might reply..."Um...Really?"
California's population is growing. It's living with droughts that have shut its hydroelectric plants. New utility-scale solar projects are often met with environmental group push back which ties them up in litigation and keeps them on the drawing board. Meanwhile, Governor Brown has committed the state to cutting carbon emissions in half by 2030. This in a state (see chart) which has actually increased its emissions since 1990.
So where will PG&E get this clean bountiful power if it can't count on hydro, solar, wind or now-absent nuclear? Most likely, points out Forbes' James Conca, PG&E "will try to buy renewable power from out-of-state, or ramp up natural gas." Shipping power in, of course, means higher costs; ramping up natural gas to replace emissions-free nuclear means higher emissions.
There were so many things wrong with this picture, from so many angles, that an organization called Environmental Progress -- part of a consortium of environmentalists opposing the shutdown -- began poking around in the PG&E books.
EP claims they've found evidence of a financial conflict of interest which has corrupted the debate. This is their latest foray into the behind-the-scenes: