PG&E Corporate Responsibility and Sustainability Report 2018

PG&E Chapter 11 Update

Hydroelectric Operations

PG&E owns and operates the nation’s largest investor-owned hydroelectric system, providing a safe and reliable source of clean energy for millions of customers. We are committed to managing these water resources in a responsible way, to both supply our hydroelectric power generation facilities and manage water supplies for fisheries and downstream users.

Our Approach

PG&E’s hydroelectric system is spread across California and consists of nearly 100 reservoirs that feed 65 powerhouses and a pumped storage facility, for a total generating capacity of nearly 4,000 MW of clean power. We manage our hydroelectric system to maintain the safety of the public and our workforce, protect wildlife habitat and sensitive species, and maintain popular recreation venues for the communities we serve, including campgrounds, picnic areas, boat launches, trails, fishing streams and whitewater flows.

As a source of consistent, flexible and clean energy, hydropower provides an important balance to help the energy grid integrate intermittent sources of renewable energy such as wind and solar. PG&E works closely with water districts, first responders and regulatory agencies to manage our water resources—whether in times of drought or periods of extreme precipitation. We work together to repair and strengthen infrastructure, manage wildfire risks and mitigate environmental impacts.

PG&E’s Dam Safety Program has the mandate of maintaining the long-term safety and reliability of our water storage and water conveyance infrastructure and assuring compliance with the regulations of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and California’s Division of Safety of Dams.

In 2018, we began building out a programmatic series of enhancements to the Dam Safety Program that will establish a risk-informed approach and new tools that improve the way in which our engineering teams conduct their inspections, surveillance and monitoring of dams. With continuous improvement as a driving principle, the Dam Safety Program receives external feedback from a panel of established industry experts through the Dam Safety Advisory Board.

We continue to make significant investments to maintain and upgrade our dams and water conveyance systems to ensure their ongoing safety and reliability. In addition, we continue to engage with customers in populated areas downstream from PG&E dams through safety outreach.

2018 Milestones

In 2018, PG&E generated approximately 7.4 billion kWh of zero-carbon hydroelectric energy for the benefit of our customers.

In addition, PG&E stored approximately 800 million kWh of energy through the pumped storage process at our Helms Pumped Storage Plant. Located more than 1,000 feet inside a solid granite mountain, the facility alternately draws water from an upper reservoir to produce electricity when demand is high and pumps it back when demand is low for reuse during the next high-demand period. In 2018, there was an increase in daytime pumping (energy storage) resulting from increased solar production throughout California. The ability to quickly ramp up and down plays a key role in integrating intermittent renewable resources, such as wind and solar, onto the power grid to support grid reliability and help meet California’s clean energy goals.

Our environmental commitment also includes managing our hydroelectric facilities to enhance and, where possible, restore habitats for fish and other wildlife. As an example of our efforts, we have made progress toward restoring self-sustaining populations of chinook salmon and steelhead trout in Battle Creek. In a collaboration between PG&E and federal and state agencies, winter-run chinook salmon were introduced into North Fork Battle Creek for the first time, while newly installed facilities at Inskip Dam will prevent mixing of Battle Creek’s North and South Fork waters, enabling fish to return to the Fork with the best habitat for reproduction.

Measuring Progress

We gauge our hydroelectric performance in a number of ways: the reliability of our carbon-free hydroelectric power generation units; our progress on improving public safety around the flumes, canals and other waterways we manage; and our compliance with environmental requirements for our operating licenses.

Our facilities were consistently available nearly 97 percent of the time when they were planned to operate.

Hydropower Reliability Footnote 1
Target Actual
2016 98.9% 98.9%
2017 98.9% 98.0%
2018 98.5% 96.9%
  • 1. Measures the percentage of time facilities are available when they are planned to operate.1

As part of PG&E’s wide-ranging public safety program, which includes K-8 education and an extensive dam safety and inspection program, we also track the installation of fencing and gates to further protect the public around PG&E-managed waterways.

In 2014, PG&E established a five-year goal ending in 2018. We exceeded our overall goal for the total area protected by fencing and gating, achieving more than 122,000 linear feet. We are establishing a new plan for the next five-year goals based on additional assessments of public access to the canal system. We are on track for the interim 2019 goal of 6,273 linear feet.

Area Protected by Fencing and Gating (Linear Feet)
Target Actual
Total 65,700 122,563
2014 16,000 16,789
2015 16,000 23,755
2016 16,000 44,399
2017 16,000 37,120
2018 1,700 500

PG&E also tracks key indicators of our performance related to maintaining and managing our hydroelectric system and the fish and wildlife habitats that it encompasses.

Environmental Stewardship in Our Hydroelectric Operations—2018
Miles of stream monitored for environmental conditions Footnote 1 421
Acres of bird nesting territories monitored Footnote 2 8,125
Acres monitored and/or treated for noxious weed control 4,389
Acres monitored for use by special status species Footnote 3 34,154
  • 1. Refers to miles of stream monitored for conditions such as water quality/flow, sediment management, habitat quality, fish populations and invasive species.1
  • 2. Includes monitoring of bald eagle and other nesting territories at PG&E hydroelectric projects.2
  • 3. Special status species include those that are listed under the federal or state Endangered Species Acts or are otherwise given a specific designation by California or a federal resource or land management agency. Monitoring studies are required under various hydroelectric licenses.3