PG&E Corporate Responsibility and Sustainability Report 2017

Hydroelectric Operations

PG&E owns and operates one of the nation’s largest investor-owned hydroelectric systems. Being a steward of water resources involves supplying our hydroelectric power generation facilities—an abundant source of clean energy—while managing water supplies for fisheries and downstream users in a responsible way.

Our Approach

PG&E’s hydroelectric system is spread across California and consists of nearly 100 reservoirs that feed 66 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 ensure 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 variable 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, such as those we experienced during the last several years, or in more recent periods of extreme precipitation. We work together to repair and strengthen infrastructure, manage wildfire risks and mitigate environmental impacts.

Working Collaboratively

PG&E’s hydroelectric system consists of 25 federally licensed projects that require regular renewal of operating licenses. During the renewal process, we collaborate with stakeholders, including federal and state agencies, local community members, environmental organizations, Native American tribes, fishing interests and agricultural landholders, to assess the impacts of the projects. Together, we reach agreement on appropriate resource management measures to include as conditions of the new licenses, such as fish and wildlife habitat protection and recreational opportunities.

Investing in Safety and Reliability

Many of PG&E’s dams and powerhouses have been in service for more than 75 years, and some of the water collection and transport systems date back to California’s gold mining era. We inspect and maintain our entire hydroelectric system according to strict safety guidelines, ensuring structural integrity under normal and extreme conditions.

We continue to make significant investments to repair and upgrade our 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.

2016 Milestones

While heavy rains in early 2017 helped relieve the drought, PG&E remains diligent in managing and monitoring our hydroelectric system and the impact of both flood and drought on our watersheds.

Our environmental commitment includes managing our hydroelectric facilities to enhance and, where possible, restore habitats for fish and other wildlife. Examples of our efforts include:

  • Shasta crayfish reintroduction. Pacific Gas and Electric Company signed a Safe Harbor Agreement with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife—designed to assist in reintroducing endangered Shasta crayfish in Shasta County. Additionally, on PG&E land, the federal and state agencies completed a meadow restoration project; the restored habitat has the potential to double the number of Shasta crayfish now in existence.
  • Removed small dam on East Panther Creek. In 2003, PG&E worked with several groups, including the Foothill Conservancy, American Whitewater, Natural Heritage Institute and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, to intentionally breach the East Panther Creek Dam, restoring the creek to its full natural flow. The restoration process was completed in November 2016 with the removal of the dam, allowing better fish passage and natural flows.

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.

In 2016, we met our target for the reliability of our hydropower units, with the facilities available more than 98 percent of the time when they were planned to operate. We have maintained a target of 98.9 percent for 2017.

Hydropower Reliability
2014 2015 2016
Target 99.1% 99.1% 98.9%
Actual 98.8% 99.4% 98.9%

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.

For the last three years, we have exceeded our goal for the total area protected by fencing and gating, as measured in linear feet. Our target for 2017 remains at 16,000 linear feet.

Area Protected by Fencing and Gating (Linear Feet)
2014 2015 2016
Target 16,000 16,000 16,000
Actual 16,789 23,755 44,399

Finally, our compliance rate in 2016 was 98.9 percent, slightly improving upon the prior year’s rate of 98.8.

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—2016
Miles of stream monitored for environmental conditions Footnote 1 618
Acres of bird nesting territories monitored Footnote 2 8,125
Acres monitored and/or treated for noxious weed control 2,847
Acres monitored for use by special status species Footnote 3 1,095
  • 1. Refers to miles of stream monitored for conditions such as water quality/flow, sediment management, habitat quality, fish populations and invasive species.
  • 2. Includes monitoring of bald eagle and other nesting territories at PG&E hydroelectric projects.
  • 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.

Looking Ahead

Although most of California is no longer in a drought, PG&E’s approach to water stewardship in our operations will continue. By collaborating with policymakers, regulators, private industry and other stakeholders, we will manage the availability of water for hydroelectric power while minimizing fire danger and impacts to the environment and the communities we serve.