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California legislature to confront
global warming today

PG&E to partner with customers
in neutralizing carbon emissions

The will to reverse global warming has changed in Sacramento
and in Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) leadership.
Photo(s) by Luke Thomas

By Pat Murphy

Copyright fogcityjournal.com

August 7, 2006

The California Legislature returns to session today with reversal of global climate change at the top of its agenda.

California is the twelfth largest producer of carbon energy emissions which scientists say causes the phenomenon of global warming.

California sours the skies more than most nations.

Murmurings of the phenomenon first caught scientific attention in the 1970s, with former Vice President Al Gore later bringing it to public awareness.

But skeptics prevailed in delaying public and private sector remedy.

Carbon emissions skyrocketed in the period from 1970 to present,
stated Al Gore in San Francisco at the World Environment Day conference
held June 4, high enough to cause world maps redrawn
in scant decades if political will isn't summoned to reverse emission rise.

Will to reverse the phenomenon is now strong within the California Legislature, within PG&E, and within the California Governor's Office.

"…the debate is over. We know the science. We see the threat.
And we know the time for action is now," California Governor Arnold Schwarzenneger acknowledged in June.

San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom hosts California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger
June 4 forging bi-partisan attack on global warming.

The California Assembly today will debate climate change legislation authored by Assembly Speaker Fabian Núñez.

Photo courtesy of California Assembly Speaker
Fabian Nunez

It is an unprecedented opportunity for all California sectors to take the lead in ending the global threat, PG&E Vice President of Governmental Relations Nancy McFadden reported last week.

"It is a precedent setting bill," McFadden told the Sentinel.

PG&E Vice President Nancy McFadden

McFadden worked for both President Bill Clinton and Vice President Al Gore. She attended discussions on global warming in Los Angles last week between President Clinton, British Prime Minister Tony Blair, and Governor Schwarzenegger.

"If the legislation is passed it will be the first state in the nation that requires mandatory reporting of carbon emissions and sets a cap - so it's a big deal," McFadden continued.

"And that is what Tony Blair yesterday was talking about because England has a cap."

PG&E has instituted many clean energy programs, McFadden recalled, which now are being acknowledged.

"I do think that PG&E's presence in an elite group of CEOs with the governor and the prime minister was a real sign that policy makers view the company as a leader on this issue," said McFadden, who was accompanied in those discussions by PG&E President Tom King.

King's presentation to Blair and Schwarzenegger prompted discussion on involving the California public.

"It actually sparked a conversation among the CEOs about reaching out to real people and giving real people real power - giving them real power and giving them a role in how to solve this problem.

"It wasn't a new concept to all of them.

"The CEO from Timberland talked about some of the things they're doing to empower their customers.

"The more retail companies actually were very familiar with that concept.

"I think maybe to the utilities this is a little groundbreaking."

In the last year, PG&E become vocal about the need for clean emissions and consumer empowerment.

"The company was pretty silent about the issue until the last year," McFadden stated.

"But now we are saying with a very firm voice that the science is there, the problem exists, the time for action is now, and we're saying it unequivocally."

More than 50% of the energy produced by PG&E is already carbon free, McFadden pointed out.

"Which for a utility the size of which we are, where we serve five percent of the energy users in the nation, is huge.

"Fifty percent of our energy is carbon free."

A new program for PG&E customer involement may begin as early as this month.

"We want to make our customers be part of the movement to address climate change.

"We have pending before the PUC our proposed program to give customers an opportunity to be carbon neutral in their energy use and to pay a small premium so that we can invest money and neutralize the carbon that is used to produce the energy that serves our customers."

One element of neutralizing carbon emissions would include forestry planted in proportion to carbon emitted.

"It's a way of empowering people to be able to check a box to say that they care about climate change and that they want to do something about it."

The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) is expect to approve the program soon, with a voluntary customer fee of approximately $3.

The program will begin immediately once approved by CPUC. Californians will receive instant email notification of program launch.

"It's a first in the nation," McFadden said of the program.

"I think you'll see a number of utilities follow us once the PUC approves it."

San Francisco based PG&E has committed large investment funds to expanding or developing other clean energy technologies, reported McFadden.

They include solar, tidal, wind, hydro, and biodigester divisions.

PG&E Climate Protection Program

Working with environmental organizations, consumer groups, and others, PG&E voluntarily proposed a first-of-its-kind Climate Protection Program and Tariff (CPT) to the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC). If approved by the CPUC, customers can choose to sign up and pay a small premium on their monthly utility bill, to fund independent environmental projects aimed at removing carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere. The first projects will be forest restoration and conservation projects, and the carbon sequestration and emission reductions projects will be independently verified and then permanently retired.

PG&E hopes to enroll approximately 4 to 5 percent of eligible customers into the program by the end of its third year, and achieve reductions in CO2 emissions equivalent to taking 350,000 cars off the road for a year. The program will be reviewed by the CPUC in 2006, and PG&E is targeting 2007 to launch the program formally.

To learn more about how you can get involved, contact PG&E at CPTpresignup@pge.com.




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