Utilities Pay Lip Service to Climate Change

By Published On: July 17, 2004

In line with the California Public Utilities Commission?s recognition that greenhouse gases affect climate change, investor-owned utilities? long-term procurement plans spell out steps they are taking to combat this environmental threat. Utilities said they report greenhouse gas emission levels to the California Climate Action Registry (CCAR), a state-funded agency that tracks data in the expectation that there will be a trading market for greenhouse gas credits in the future. According to the California Energy Commission, global climate change could push up energy costs in the state by an additional $6.2 billion in 2100. While no definitive scenario was mapped out by the CEC at an environmental conference last month, divergent models show the state?s climate could be much wetter, or much drier, but agree that it will certainly be much hotter (<i>Circuit</i>, June 11, 2004). In long-term plans filed late last week with the CPUC, utilities for the first time included proposals to lessen global warming. Their plans included the following:<ul><li>Pacific Gas & Electric is pursuing federal legislation, through the Clean Air Planning Act, to implement national standards to reduce greenhouse and other emissions from power generation. The act would allow for caps and emissions trading. The utility calculated that electricity generation accounts for 16 percent of carbon dioxide emissions in California, compared with 58 percent from transportation. Last year, PG&E started inventories for greenhouse gas emissions using CCAR?s reporting and certification protocols.</li> <li>Southern California Edison intends to record and certify its CO2 on an annual basis but downplayed climate change responsibility. Edison points out that climate change is a global issue and that gas emissions are distributed around the world. The utility argues for taking actions at the ?broadest scale and lowest cost.? While California should reduce emissions, the impacts of these actions ?diminish as one thinks of them in its proper global context,? according to the filings.</li> <li>San Diego Gas & Electric reports that it is compiling emissions inventories for 2004, which will be certified to CCAR standards in 2005. The utility said its long-term procurement plan is aligned with the commission?s goals of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by increasing energy efficiency, producing energy without such emissions, and replacing old, inefficient generation.</li></ul>

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