VIA Motors, PG&E partner on the Chevy Volt of work trucks

San Francisco, Calif.--VIA Motors claimed a "first" today with the delivery of a pair of work trucks for use in California's Pacific Gas and Electric Company's (PG&E) fleet. These were no regular pickups, because although they are based on the Chevrolet Silverado, the trucks that VIA built are extended-range electric vehicles (eREV).

If you are familiar with the way the Chevrolet Volt works, you should have no trouble wrapping your head around the way VIA's eREV trucks function. For the first 40 miles of operation, the eREV truck is motivated solely by … Read more

PG&E offers opt-out for smart meters at a cost

Pacific Gas & Electric will offer customers an option to turn off the radio on its smart meters, an effort to address health concerns about the two-way utility meters.

The opt-out option, announced yesterday, will come at a cost because PG&E will no longer to be able to remotely read meters. In a filing, PG&E proposed that customers pay $270 up front and a $14 monthly charge--or $135 up front and a $20 monthly charge, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.

PG&E's smart-meter program has drawn national attention first because customers complained of … Read more

Audit finds PG&E smart meters accurate

An independent review of smart meters installed in Northern California by utility Pacific Gas & Electric found no technical flaws, but a poor roll-out with customers.

The California Public Utilities Commission on Thursday released the evaluation of PG&E's controversial smart-meter program, which was conducted by consulting company The Structure Group.

After PG&E installed two-way meters in Bakersfield, Calif., customers complained that their utility prices shot up, which they blamed on the new meters. Since then, there have been questions over PG&E's handling of the program by regulators and push-back from various communities … Read more

PG&E pushes 'pumped hydro' for energy storage

Despite all the advances in battery technologies, pumped hydro storage--essentially pumping water uphill and releasing it through a generator later--remains one of the cheapest ways to store bulk electricity on the grid.

California utility Pacific Gas & Electric on Friday filed a request with state regulators to fund a feasibility study for adding a pumped hydro facility which could store as much energy as a power plant can supply.

PG&E has identified the Mokelumne River watershed in Amador County, Calif., as a location. The utility wants to study placing a pumped hydro facility sized between 400 megawatts and … Read more

Deal brings $100 million for home solar financing

A deal between California utility Pacific Gas & Electric and solar company SunRun will eliminate the upfront cost of installing rooftop solar panels for 3,500 homes.

PG&E subsidiary Pacific Energy Capital has created a $100 million tax equity fund that will be used by SunRun to offer homeowners financing for solar electric panels.

SunRun offers a power purchase agreement through which consumers pay a small upfront fee and then a monthly payment for the solar panels, rather than purchase them outright. The financing, regularly used with business customers, allows homeowners to lower their monthly electricity bills with … Read more

PG&E admits to flaws in some smart meters

California utility Pacific Gas & Electric has released a report acknowledging that thousands of its smart meters have had technical problems and that its customer service has been insufficient.

The company has been the source of ire by customers in California who have complained that their utility bills went up after the two-way digital meters were installed. More than 5 million meters have been installed since 2007.

Prompted by customer complaints over billing accuracy, California regulators ordered PG&E to provide details of its smart-meter program.

On Monday, the utility released four years' worth of project management reports (PDF) … Read more

Utility PG&E to finance rooftop solar panels

Pacific Gas & Electric will fund the installation and leasing of solar panels at about 1,000 homes and businesses this year.

The California utility on Wednesday announced a deal with SolarCity, a Silicon Valley start-up that will provide PG&E customers the financing to install rooftop solar panels with little upfront money. PG&E subsidiary Pacific Venture Capital will provide $60 million in tax equity to SolarCity for its installation and financing services.

Rather than own solar panels, SolarCity customers pay a monthly fee and a relatively small or no upfront investment. SolarCity, which owns the solar … Read more

Clusters of plug-in cars will tax local power grids

DETROIT--If plug-in electric cars become popular in your neighborhood, you may face an electricity supply crunch when it comes to charging.

There have been a number of studies measuring whether the national power grid can fuel large numbers of electric vehicles. But the biggest concern regarding the impact of plug-ins is at the local level, where adding just a few vehicles could strain a local circuit, said Peter Darbee, the CEO of California utility Pacific Gas & Electric, during a talk at the Business of Plugging conference here Tuesday.

Darbee predicts that demand for plug-in vehicles will be very high, … Read more

The final frontier: Solar power from space

Pacific Gas & Electric is going to great lengths--all the way to space--in its quest for renewable energy.

The California utility on Monday said that it will seek approval from regulators to purchase 200 megawatts worth of solar energy delivered from stealth space solar power company Solaren over 15 years.

The idea of space-based solar power (SBSP) is to place a device in space that can convert solar energy into a usable form and have it transmitted wirelessly to Earth. Scientists have thought to capture solar energy from space for decades but has it has never been done commercially.

Solaren … Read more

California utilities plug energy-efficient electronics

Californians' love for electronic gear takes a heavy toll on electricity bills, sucking up 20 percent of total power consumption.

Utilities Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) and Sacramento Municipal Utility District (SMUD) on Thursday announced a program to steer consumers toward more energy-efficient electronics.

Called the Business and Consumer Alliance, the program will identify which TVs, desktop computers, and monitors are the most energy efficient based on industry standards, such as EnergyStar.

Merchandise in stores will be labeled with either a "Save" or a "Save More" label to highlight energy-efficient equipment, said a representative … Read more