Your Electric Bill at Work

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

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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.

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DEMOCRACY DOES NOT EXIST...

without free and fair elections, a vigorous free press, and engaged citizens to reclaim power from those who abuse it.

In this election year unlike any other—against a backdrop of a pandemic, an economic crisis, racial reckoning, and so much daily crazy—Mother Jones' journalism is driven by one simple question: Will America move closer to, or further from, justice and equity in the years to come?

If you're able to, please join us in this mission with a donation today. Our reporting right now is focused on voting rights and election security, corruption, disinformation, racial and gender equity, and the climate crisis. We can’t do it without the support of readers like you, and we need to give it everything we've got between now and November. Thank you.

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