California seeks 100% clean energy. Why PG&E’s bankruptcy could imperil that plan
California’s crusade to turn its electricity grid green is running into an increasingly serious obstacle: PG&E Corp.’s bankruptcy.
The utility last week won a key court ruling when a bankruptcy judge said federal regulators can’t stop PG&E from unraveling billions of dollars worth of pricey contracts to buy electricity from solar and wind farms and other renewable energy sources.
Although PG&E said it hasn’t decided whether to walk away from those deals, it fought for the legal right to do so. Green-energy advocates say PG&E’s efforts are casting a cloud over their entire industry and will make it harder to borrow money for future projects, whether it’s PG&E or some other utility buying the power.
That, in turn, would imperil California’s plans — mandated by the Legislature — to phase out fossil fuels in electricity generation in the coming years.
“Our state is talking about getting to 100 percent clean energy,” said Jan Smutny-Jones of the Independent Energy Producers Association, an advocacy group based in Sacramento. “Who in the world is going to be investing in new battery technologies and other things that people say are needed? We have to have a stable environment.”
A fight with state leaders — already irate with PG&E over its safety record and other issues — could be in the offing. The California Public Utilities Commission’s general counsel, Arocles Aguilar, told lawmakers in March that her agency has the authority to prevent PG&E from walking away from its green-energy contracts.