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Solar news: February 5th, 2021

In this week’s solar news roundup, major automaker GM plans to go all-electric, and California utility company PG&E announces a new initiative to reduce powerline maintenance costs in wildfire-prone areas with the help of microgrids.

PG&E unveils new remote microgrid initiative

Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E) recently announced a new microgrid plan to address rising concerns about wildfire-induced grid outages. As a part of the initiative, PG&E would replace power lines with standalone solar panels, batteries, and generators in some areas. PG&E indicated that these microgrids would only be implemented in isolated areas where customers are served by long stretches of power lines that cross high fire-risk terrain. Additionally, the microgrids would only serve PG&E customers with less than 20 kilowatts (kW) of total electrical load. With this ‘Remote Grid Initiative’, PG&E aims to reduce the costs associated with repairing and replacing power lines after wildfires. 

This proposal is one in a series of several microgrid plans in the works from PG&E, and it comes after the company declared bankruptcy due to the impact of wildfires in 2019.  

GM announces plan to phase out gasoline engines by 2035

On Thursday, General Motors (GM) Chief Executive Mary Barra announced that the company has set a goal to transition to 100 percent electric vehicles by 2035. This will be a sharp transition for GM; according to the Wall Street Journal, gas and diesel vehicles account for 98 percent of GM’s sales today. The announcement makes GM the first major automaker to put a timeline on their transition to electric vehicles. GM’s plan also coincides with the Biden administration’s recent executive order with a similar goal: to fully transition the American economy to a carbon-pollution free electricity sector by 2035. 

GM stated that their ability to fully transition to electric vehicles depends partly on government incentives. The car company’s sustainability chief Dane Parker said, “[Incentives] really help with consumer acceptance and overcoming some of the initial hurdles consumers might have with first cost, as well as things like charging infrastructure.” In addition to their 2035 decarbonization target, GM has also pledged to create 30 new electric vehicles by 2025, and to invest 27 billion dollars into the development of EVs over the next 5 years (you can read more about their plan here.)


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