Modern economies cannot function without electricity, and production of electric power affects citizens in many ways, including climate change. Production of electricity requires investments that easily reach billions of dollars, and streams of investment capital must be perpetual to procure fuel, build and maintain plants, and transmit electricity to customers. This case study addresses whether a California decision relevant to investments about generating electricity adequately considered competing concerns. In 2009, Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E, a private, investor-owned utility) applied to renew the operating licenses of its two nuclear reactors at the Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant (the “plant”). By 2016, PG&E had decided not to seek license renewal and asked the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) to approve a price increase for its electricity to pay for specified expenses in closing the plant, which generated 24% of PG&E’s electricity. Four environmental groups and two labor organizations supported PG&E, and CPUC approved most elements of PG&E’s plan in 2018. PG&E’s application generated considerable debate during the CPUC process, and multiple organizations argued that PG&E’s plan was flawed. Two of the protests were from environmental groups favoring nuclear power as mitigation for climate change. Nuclear reactors generate electricity with uranium and have low emissions of carbon dioxide, the key source of climate change. This case study summarizes the competing arguments relevant to energy investments and climate change. Was the decision to close the plant in the best interest of the PG&E customers and the residents and taxpayers of California?

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