Pacific Gas and Electric Company recently announced that it has won approval from the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) to launch ClimateSmart – a new and innovative voluntary program that will provide customers the option to neutralize greenhouse gas emissions associated with their energy use, thereby protecting California’s environment and contributing to state and local efforts aimed at fighting climate change. The first-of-its-kind climate protection program, ClimateSmart is scheduled to launch in spring 2007.
"We’re absolutely thrilled by the CPUC’s decision and grateful for President Peevey’s and Commissioner Grueneich’s support for this groundbreaking program," said Tom King, CEO of PG&E. "By empowering our customers to actively engage in the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, we are leading the way in preserving California’s environment and addressing the challenges associated with climate change."
ClimateSmart, conceived and developed by PG&E, allows residential and business customers to sign up voluntarily and pay a small amount on their monthly utility bill based on energy usage, which will fund environmental projects aimed at removing carbon dioxide (CO2) from the air. The amount removed from the air will equal the amount of greenhouse gasses associated with the customer’s energy use, thus making them "climate neutral." PG&E created the program as a part of its overall climate protection and environmental leadership strategies, including the support of federal and state regulation of greenhouse gases such as AB 32.
PG&E anticipates that ClimateSmart will receive approximately $20 million in its first three years, with a goal of removing two million tons of carbon dioxide from the air. This reduction would be the equivalent of taking 350,000 cars off the road for one year. The first carbon reduction projects will focus on forest restoration and conservation projects in California.
"I commend PG&E for bringing this application to us," said Michael R. Peevey, president of the California Public Utilities Commission. "As the warnings about the threat of climate change mount daily, it is increasingly apparent that we will need to pull out all the stops to prevent very dire consequences. This means we need both mandatory programs and market-based measures as well as voluntary actions by individuals and businesses, which this program encourages."
PG&E plans to enroll as the first participant in the program by committing more than $1 million of shareholder funding over the next three years to make the energy use in the company’s offices, service centers, maintenance facilities, and other company buildings completely climate neutral.
"PG&E has demonstrated its leadership in addressing global warming, first by supporting California’s new landmark law to limit the state’s global warming emissions, and now by pledging to reduce its own emissions and helping its customers reduce their emissions," said Devra Wang, director of the Natural Resources Defense Council’s California energy program.
"Working together, PG&E and its customers can make new investments in protecting California’s forests and reducing our carbon footprint," said Wendy Pulling, Director of Environmental Policy for PG&E. "With a mature regulatory framework and tremendous carbon reduction benefits, California’s forests are a natural place for us to direct our first carbon reduction projects to ensure our customers get the greatest greenhouse gas reductions and environmental benefits at the least cost."
ClimateSmart’s projects will all be located in California and selected through competitive bidding under stringent criteria under protocols developed by an independent non-profit organization, the California Climate Action Registry. Greenhouse gas reduction projects under PG&E’s program will be independently certified per the Registry’s protocols, and overseen by an external advisory group consisting of a wide range of community groups, businesses and non-profit conservation agencies. The program will be reviewed by independent auditors and PG&E will regularly report program results to the CPUC, as well as to all participating customers.
Once a customer enrolls, PG&E will calculate exactly how many pounds of CO2 they are emitting based on monthly natural gas and electricity usage. The customer will pay a monthly amount as determined by their calculated CO2 emissions. PG&E estimates that the monthly amount, for the average residential customer who chooses to enroll, would be an increase of about three percent or $4.31 each month per month.