Pacific Gas and Electric is specific about its services. The utility distributes electricity to almost 5.2 million residential, commercial, and industrial customers and natural gas to approximately 4.3 million customers in Central and Northern California. Pacific Gas and Electric has interests in power plants with a total of more than 7,340 MW of generating capacity. It is also engaged in electricity procurement and transmission, and natural gas procurement, transportation and storage. Pacific Gas and Electric is the major subsidiary of holding company PG&E Corporation. In a major setback, in September 2010 one of its natural gas lines ruptured in San Bruno, near San Francisco's international airport.
The resulting explosion and a major fire caused several deaths and the razing of more than 50 homes and damage to another 120. The incident resulted in the parent company taking a third quarter 2010 charge of $238 million. By early 2011 it was also facing more than 60 lawsuits over the accident. While the company's revenues picked up in 2010 due to a recovering economy and a growth in demand, the ongoing costs related to the San Bruno incident and necessary infrastructure upgrades are likely to pull down the both Pacific Gas and Electric's and its parent's income in 2011.
To help meet California's long-term carbon emission requirements, Pacific Gas and Electric is pursuing energy efficiency and breaking ground on new projects. The company is the first US utility that has committed to purchasing wave-generated power. In terms of solar power, it has signed deals with Topaz Solar Farms, a subsidiary of OptiSolar, and High Plains Ranch II, a subsidiary of SunPower Corporation, to develop 750 MW of high-efficiency PV solar energy. It agreed to buy electricity generated from Arizona's Agua Caliente solar plant from NRG Energy, when the plant is completed in 2014. It is also looking to develop wind farms with IBERDROLA RENEWABLES.
On the consumer front, in 2010 the company teamed up with solar power service firm SolarCity to provide $60 million in tax equity financing for solar installations in homes and businesses. That year it had more the 45,000 customers with installed solar photovoltaic systems. Power from renewable sources accounted for 16% of Pacific Gas and Electric's retail electricity sales in 2010.
Pacific Gas and Electric started the last decade in serious trouble, filing for bankruptcy protection after it was slammed with soaring wholesale prices and a rate freeze that prevented it from passing on higher costs to customers in California's deregulated power market in 2000 and 2001.
The utility's emergence from bankruptcy was delayed because of disputes with the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) over its reorganization plan. Pacific Gas and Electric and the CPUC eventually agreed on a plan, which was approved by bankruptcy courts, that leaves the utility intact under the CPUC's jurisdiction. Pacific Gas and Electric's original plan would have broken up the utility's operations and transferred its power plants and energy transmission assets to new PG&E entities, which would have operated outside of the CPUC's jurisdiction. The company completed its Chapter 11 reorganization in April 2004.
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