PG&E Corporate Responsibility and Sustainability Report 2018

Northern California Wildfires

Hydroelectric Operations

PG&E owns and operates the nation’s largest investor-owned hydroelectric system. We strive to manage these water resources in a responsible way: supplying our hydroelectric power generation facilities—an abundant source of clean energy—while managing 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 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 or 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 and recreation interests, and agricultural landholders, to assess the impacts of the projects. Together, we strive to 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 powerhouses and nearly 170 dams 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.

2017 Milestones

While heavy rains in early 2017 helped replenish our reservoirs, 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. An example of our efforts includes:

  • PG&E donates swamp parcel in Shasta County. PG&E donated a 4,491-acre tract of land in the McArthur Swamp under an agreement with conservation groups designed to ensure the parcel will be preserved in perpetuity. PG&E has maintained the parcel for decades, providing both a seasonal wetland habitat and land for cattle grazing in dry seasons. To complete the donation to the Fall River Resource Conservation District, PG&E worked with the Pacific Forest and Watershed Lands Stewardship Council, the organization established to oversee completion of PG&E’s land conservation commitment. PG&E retained ownership of an additional 3,168 acres at McArthur Swamp for hydropower generation, which will also be protected through a conservation easement held by Ducks Unlimited. This includes a nearly 500-acre parcel that PG&E restored to a seasonal wetland in 2012.

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.

While we fell just short of our target for the reliability of our hydropower units in 2017, our facilities are consistently available more than 98 percent of the time when they are planned to operate. We have set a target of 98.8 percent for 2018.

Hydropower Reliability Footnote 1
2015 2016 2017
Target 99.1% 98.9% 98.9%
Actual 99.4% 98.9% 98.0%
  • 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.

For the last four years, we have exceeded our goal for the total area protected by fencing and gating, as measured in linear feet.

Area Protected by Fencing and Gating (Linear Feet)
2015 2016 2017
Target 16,000 16,000 16,000
Actual 23,755 44,399 37,120

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—2017
Miles of stream monitored for environmental conditions Footnote 1 349
Acres of bird nesting territories monitored Footnote 2 8,125
Acres monitored and/or treated for noxious weed control 1,179
Acres monitored for use by special status species Footnote 3 1,125
  • 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

Looking Ahead

PG&E will continue collaborating with policymakers, regulators, private industry and other stakeholders to manage the availability of water for hydroelectric power while minimizing wildfire danger and impacts to the environment and the communities we serve.