Managing Our Hydro Operations

PG&E’s Pit 1 powerhouse has the capacity to produce more than 60 MW of clean energy for our customers.
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.

The system is built along 16 river basins stretching nearly 500 miles—from Redding in the north to Bakersfield in the south. PG&E’s 68 powerhouses, as well as a pumped storage facility, have a total generating capacity of 3,896 MW and rely on nearly 100 reservoirs located primarily in the higher elevations of California’s Sierra Nevada and Southern Cascade mountain ranges.


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License Agreement Milestonesmore...

PG&E's hydroelectric system consists of 26 federally licensed projects, some of which date back to the early 1900s. As required by federal and state regulatory agencies, PG&E evaluates and mitigates the projects' impact on natural resources.

More than half of our operating licenses have been, or will be, up for renewal between 2000 and 2012. The license renewal process creates an opportunity to identify and assess project-specific impacts, taking into consideration all beneficial uses, including conservation, fish and wildlife habitat protection and enhancement, recreational opportunities and power generation. We have made it a priority to work collaboratively with stakeholders, including local community members, throughout the relicensing process to identify and agree on appropriate resource management measures to include as conditions of the new license.

We also remain focused on continuing our strong track record of compliance with the conditions of our operating licenses. Last year, we demonstrated this commitment by improving our compliance performance on the most environmentally critical license requirements (mostly involving the maintenance of streamflows) from 93.5 percent in 2008 to 95.5 percent in 2009.

In 2009, we applied for a new multi-year operating license from FERC for the McCloud-Pit hydroelectric project, PG&E's largest conventional hydroelectric project. The application included 22 proposed measures to protect, mitigate and enhance natural resources associated with project area resources. These include a proposal to enhance the timing and amount of streamflows to ensure protection of fish and other aquatic habitat in the Lower McCloud River, a world-class trout fly fishing river.

As part of implementing the new 36-year operating license PG&E received for the Pit 3, 4 and 5 hydroelectric project in 2007, we began making upgrades last year to the streamflow release facilities at the project's three dams. Increasing these streamflows will enhance approximately 22.5 miles of the Pit River and its associated habitat. PG&E developed the enhanced streamflow plan in collaboration with state and federal resource agencies, Native American tribes, non-governmental organizations and other stakeholders. We have also used special construction techniques to minimize environmental impacts.

Last year, we also received a new 38-year license from FERC for the Spring Gap-Stanislaus hydroelectric project, an existing 87.9 MW project on the South and Middle Forks of the Stanislaus River spanning Tuolumne and Calaveras counties. Under the new license, PG&E will implement new, enhanced streamflows and perform additional studies to assess and minimize impacts to the mountain yellow-legged frog, western pond turtle and other species of concern. Other measures include installing a new “fish screen” to prevent entrainment and safely transport trout downstream of a diversion dam, installing targeted nest platforms for osprey and helping the public access streamflow information for fishing and other recreational purposes in select areas.

Also last year, FERC approved PG&E's proposal for balancing agricultural water needs with natural resource protection for the Potter Valley hydroelectric project. FERC's approval completed a challenging three-year effort by PG&E, the Potter Valley Irrigation District, National Marine Fisheries Service and other stakeholders to develop a plan to protect Russian and Eel river resources while providing a more flexible water supply to the Potter Valley agricultural community. The order allows PG&E to deliver more water to the irrigation district when needed by reducing supplies during less critical periods.

Restoring Habitat for Salmon and Steelhead Troutmore...

PG&E, in partnership with federal and state resource agencies, made significant progress last year toward starting physical work that will restore approximately 42 miles of Chinook salmon and steelhead trout habitat on Battle Creek, as well as six additional miles on its tributaries.

This restoration project is a voluntary effort by PG&E and its partners to balance fish habitat enhancements with providing clean hydroelectric power for customers. In 2009, we secured an amendment to our federal operating license to implement the first phase of the restoration project. This allowed us to obtain final approvals to begin construction in 2010 and, once complete, modify our operations. Together these actions will improve habitat and fish passage along the Battle Creek's North Fork. We are also working toward construction on the second phase of the project along the South Fork to begin in late 2010.

Our efforts to protect salmon and steelhead populations also include a multi-year, collaborative effort with CalTrout, a conservation group, to develop a tool for prioritizing among potential restoration actions in the Sacramento River basin. Nearly completed, the tool will be used by PG&E, regulatory agencies and other stakeholders to help guide future habitat enhancement efforts.

Increasing Renewable Energy for Our Customersmore...

Last year, we received a new 30-year license from FERC for the Kern Canyon hydroelectric project, an existing 11.5 MW project on the main stem of the Kern River in Kern County. The power generated by this small hydroelectric project qualifies as renewable and helps PG&E meet the mandate under California's RPS. Under the new license, PG&E will implement enhanced streamflows and perform studies to assess and minimize impacts to certain fish and other species.

We also continue to look for additional sources of hydropower and, in 2011, expect to begin construction of Britton Powerhouse, which will be the first new PG&E hydroelectric powerhouse in over 20 years. Located at an existing PG&E dam on the Pit River, this small, 2.8 MW project will contribute approximately 19 GWh per year toward the RPS mandate. The project will maximize the output of PG&E's existing hydroelectric facilities and involve no new water impoundments or diversions.