PG&E Not Seeking More Solar Tax-Equity Deals, CEO Earley Says

PG&E Corp., owner of California’s largest utility, has shut a unit that was investing in renewable energy projects, Chief Executive Officer Anthony Earley said yesterday.

Earley said the company will no longer be making tax-equity investments in solar projects as it focuses on improving its utility operations in the wake of a pipeline explosion that killed eight people last year in San Bruno, California.

“I didn’t think it would be appropriate for us to be looking at opportunities outside of our utility,” Earley said at a press event in San Francisco. “Given our circumstances, we need to be focused on our utility,” he said.

PG&E will continue to manage its existing investments in project financing funds for SolarCity Corp. and SunRun Inc., Earley said. “We are not looking for more,” he said.

In such arrangements, PG&E provides capital needed to install the systems and in return receives payments from SunRun and SolarCity customers, as well as any local solar energy rebates and benefits from the 30 percent federal investment tax credit for renewable energy.

PG&E created a $100 million tax-equity fund in January 2010 with SunRun to help the company install more than 3,500 U.S. home solar arrays. It executed a similar $60 million deal with SolarCity in June 2010.

The utility will continue to buy power from solar plants and wind farms to help it get one-third of its electricity from renewable energy by 2020, as required by state law, Earley said.

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