Your Electric Bill at Work

How Pacific Gas and Electric is giving clean tech a jolt.

For indispensable reporting on the coronavirus crisis, the election, and more, subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter.


Behold the chicken-and-egg problem of renewable- energy technology: Not enough people build it because it’s expensive, yet it’s expensive because not enough people build it. Enter California’s old-school utility, Pacific Gas and Electric, which may have discovered a way to give clean tech a push. In April, PG&E agreed to pay approximately $1.5 billion to BrightSource Energy, which will build a cutting-edge solar plant to power more than 175,000 homes. The deal came with an unusual condition: PG&E will earn royalties on the company’s future sales. The utility is betting that by shelling out for the plant, it’s helping BrightSource reduce production costs and become a dominant force in the commercial solar energy market. The arrangement, in essence, turns the utility into a venture capitalist. If BrightSource pays off, says Hal LaFlash, PG&E’s director of clean technology policy, it’s a win for consumers too: “That revenue would offset future [electricity] rates.” In January, a major French electric utility announced a similar deal with solar manufacturer Nanosolar. If other power companies follow suit, the leading lights of green investing could be…your lights.

Dear Reader,

This feels like the most important fundraising drive since I've been CEO of Mother Jones, with staggeringly high stakes and so much uncertainty. In "News Is Just Like Waste Management," I try to unpack the reality we all face and how we can rise to the challenge. If you're able to, this is a critical moment to support Mother Jones’ nonprofit journalism: We need to raise $400,000 to help cover the vital reporting projects we have planned, and right now is no time to pull back.

Monika Bauerlein, CEO, Mother Jones

payment methods

Dear Reader,

This feels like the most important fundraising drive since I've been CEO of Mother Jones, with staggeringly high stakes and so much uncertainty. In "News Is Just Like Waste Management," I try to unpack the reality we all face and how we can rise to the challenge. If you're able to, this is a critical moment to support Mother Jones’ nonprofit journalism: We need to raise $400,000 to help cover the vital reporting projects we have planned, and right now is no time to pull back.

Monika Bauerlein, CEO, Mother Jones

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate