San Diego Gas & Electric Co. (SDG&E) is accelerating its drive toward reaching net zero greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 2045, the Sempra subsidiary reported Monday.

The announcement comes less than a month after California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed legislation pushing for faster adoption of “firm zero-carbon resources” to generate electricity.

According to SDG&E CEO Caroline Winn, the utility’s sustainability strategy update incorporates feedback gathered from “a wide cross section of stakeholders” over the past year to advance carbon neutrality in its Southern California service area. 

SDG&E supplies gas and electric services to customers in Orange and San Diego counties.

“We recognize we still have much work to do and that we can’t do it alone,” said Winn. “Community partners who support and challenge us in our work to develop sustainability solutions are invaluable as we focus on strengthening climate equity and community resilience where we call home.”

SDG&E outlined three sustainability goals. First, it aims to operate a 100% zero emissions vehicle (ZEV) fleet by 2035 — five years earlier than it had originally planned. Second, the company aspires to achieve “zero net energy” for all facilities that it owns in San Diego and southern Orange counties. 

The California Air Resources Board (CARB) contends that buildings account for one-quarter of the state’s GHG emissions. The state’s Public Utilities Commission defines a “zero net energy building” as an energy-efficient building whose actual consumed energy on an annual basis is equal to our less than energy generated on-site from renewables.   

The third facet of SDG&E’s sustainability program involves piloting a virtual power plant (VPP) by 2022 instead of 2025. The utility explained the VPP demonstration project would incorporate various types of customer-owned distributed energy resources (DER), including energy storage systems, into a planned microgrid in the Shelter Valley community in eastern San Diego County.

“The primary goal of the VPP is to coordinate the dispatch of customer DERs in concert with microgrid energy needs and allow those resources to be dispatched to the regional grid when supplies are tight,” SDG&E stated. “Results of the demonstration will inform future initiatives and grid management system needs.”

Last October SDG&E unveiled a “comprehensive sustainability strategy.” The utility on Monday said it has made progress on that front within the past year by: 

  • Adding 50 MW of energy storage across two facilities and starting construction on a third;
  • Acquiring three large-scale mobile batteries deployable as backup power in emergencies;
  • Completing a renewable microgrid by the end of 2020 and starting construction on a second microgrid to provide backup power for aerial firefighting agencies;
  • Helping to launch the “Accelerate to Zero Emissions” regional collaborative to spur electric and fuel cell vehicle infrastructure investment by public and private entities;
  • Completing an electrical infrastructure hardening project in a national forest to replace more than 2,300 wood power poles with steel poles; and
  • Issuing $750 million in green bonds to fund some of its sustainability projects.

Earlier this year, a U.S. Department of Energy research lab signed a memorandum of understanding with Sempra to jointly develop decarbonization strategies.