Report explores a decarbonized future for PGW, cites its current structure and business model as challenges

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Contributed date

January 5, 2022 - 1:17pm

Critical Commentary

In December 2021, the much anticipated 81-page PGW Businesss Diversification study was released. The report recommends further study into three separate future pathways for PGW: geothermal energy; expanded weatherization; and harvesting sewer gas or landfill gas that produces methane. The report recommends investment into a feasability study for geothermal energy, which would include a network of underground pipes carrying water and shared by homes in a single block or neighborhood to heat and cool homes. The report also recommends PGW expanding weatherization services through "on-bill financing", which would provide loans for weatherization and provide a new source of revenue for PGW. This recommendation is concerning as these services would likely prey on low-income customers with degraded housing stock most in need of weatherization services and who could not afford these loans. It could also divert applications to WAP, which provides free weatherization services to low-income residents. The third recommendation is to work with the city’s Streets and Water departments to explore “decarbonized gas,” which would convert methane that results from decomposing waste, such as sewer gas, into fuel. 

The commitment of PGW to diversification has been questioned by many who say the utility is reluctant to commit to decarbonization. Recent emails obtained through a Right to Know request show that some of the same PGW executives who participated in the diversification study helped draft legislation that could tie the city’s hands when it comes to electrification.

The diversification study outlines a number of challenges facing the city and PGW, including the complicated regulatory structure governing the utility — which, in addition to the city, includes the Philadelphia Gas Commission, which oversees PGW’s budget; the nonprofit Philadelphia Facilities Management Corp., which manages day-to-day operations at PGW; and the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission, which approves rates.

As a research team, we should do a thorough analysis of the diversification study, specifically looking at the weatherization recommendation and how this policy may impact our research participants, and what the role of ECA and NECs could be under this scenario. I'm interested in seeing how the diversification study engaged with PGW employees and how their perspectives our represented in this report. 

Cite as

Susan Phillips, "Report explores a decarbonized future for PGW, cites its current structure and business model as challenges", contributed by Morgan Sarao, The Energy Rights Project, Platform for Experimental Collaborative Ethnography, last modified 5 January 2022, accessed 19 April 2024.