Eighth annual awards honor new and inspiring solutions to the most daunting challenges of today

OAKLAND, Calif., May 14, 2024 /PRNewswire/ -- The winners of Fast Company's 2024 World Changing Ideas Awards were announced today, highlighting fresh sustainability initiatives, cutting-edge AI developments, and other creative projects that are helping mold the world.

Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PRNewsfoto/Pacific Gas and Electric Company)

Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) and its remote grid program received an honorable mention in the award's Energy category.

PG&E is one of the first energy companies in North America to deploy Standalone Power Systems as an alternative customer service offering to electricity provided through traditional grid infrastructure. Throughout PG&E's 70,000-square-mile Northern and Central California service area, pockets of remote customers are served via long electric distribution lines that in many cases traverse high fire-risk areas. Replacing these overhead powerlines with a reliable and low-carbon local energy source is an innovative option that, in many cases, is preferred for serving customers at the edges of the grid.

Remote grids operate independently from the larger electric grid that delivers energy throughout the state, and they allow PG&E to remove overhead powerlines, significantly reducing wildfire risk and service interruptions.

This year's World Changing Ideas Awards showcase 50 winners, 127 finalists, and 172 honorable mentions—with health, education, energy, and AI among the most popular categories. A panel of Fast Company editors and reporters selected winners from a pool of more than 1,300 entries from across the globe, including the Republic of Korea, Brazil, and Madagascar.

"Recognition of PG&E's remote grid program as a Fast Company 2024 World Changing Idea validates our commitment to deploy energy innovations at greater speed and deliver the best possible customer experiences," said Mike Delaney, Vice President, Utility Partnerships and Innovation, PG&E. "PG&E is where innovation goes to scale and where innovators come to grow, and I want to thank our program collaborators, our regulators and state agencies, our customers and our co-workers who made the idea of widely deployed remote grids a reality through breakthrough thinking and swift execution."

"I was struck this year by the global sweep of the honorees," says Fast Company editor-in-chief Brendan Vaughan. "It's endlessly inspiring to see how the world is coming together to devise inventive solutions to our most challenging problems. We need ideas from everywhere, and this year's World Changing Ideas Awards are an extraordinary encapsulation of the innovation and creativity that is so abundant around the globe."

Scaling Remote Grids - From Briceburg to Pepperwood and Beyond

PG&E deployed its first remote grid in 2021 in Briceburg, Calif. located near Yosemite National Park.

The Briceburg remote grid has been a testament to resilience, maintaining superior power reliability with almost no downtime for the five customers it has served since June 2021. The standalone power system, which replaced 1.3 miles of overhead distribution lines, has generated more than 90% of its power from solar energy. Backup generators support redundancy and power generation during winter months when solar generation is lower due to shorter days and cloudier weather. The Briceburg system has remained operational throughout several severe weather events over the last few years when nearby customers lost power during fires and winter storms.

In November 2023, PG&E deployed its fifth—and first fully renewable—remote grid at Pepperwood Preserve outside Santa Rosa, Calif. The Pepperwood system is comprised of solar and battery energy storage and includes energy efficiency upgrades to the property it serves to keep from draining the batteries during periods of no or low solar generation, minimizing the likelihood of a power outage. The new system replaces 0.7 miles of overhead distribution line, eliminating the associated wildfire risk, and complementing Pepperwood's own initiatives in wildfire resilience.

Today, PG&E celebrates the continued expansion of its remote grid program, with a half dozen new systems being built in 2024, allowing PG&E to remove an additional six miles of overhead power lines while enabling six customers to continue receiving safe, reliable, affordable, low-carbon, and wireless energy.

PG&E has worked with Potelco, Inc and Grass Valley, Calif.-based BoxPower to design and build its growing remote grid fleet. Richmond, Calif.-based New Sun Road provides the remote monitoring and control platform for managing PG&E's remote grids. These companies represent a growing ecosystem of microgrid vendors working alongside PG&E to design, deploy and scale standalone power systems as a service offering.

Including the new systems to be deployed in the coming months, PG&E will soon reach up to 12 total remote grids powering 18 customers while removing nearly 13 miles of overhead electric distribution lines at the grid edge in high fire-threat areas. PG&E has identified many additional locations where remote grids may be the most effective way of reducing wildfire risk and improving electric reliability, with additional sites either in development or being assessed in Butte, Glenn, and Tehama counties, among others.

Remote grids are primarily identified, designed, and deployed as part of PG&E's system hardening work, which prioritizes hardening powerlines based on elevated wildfire risk and geographic considerations. In addition to remote grids, PG&E's system hardening efforts include undergrounding, installing stronger and more resilient poles, and replacing bare powerlines with larger, covered lines.

Visit fastcompany.com to read the full list of 2024 World Changing Ideas Awards honorees and visit http://www.pge.com/remotegrids to learn more about PG&E's remote grid program.

About PG&E
Pacific Gas and Electric Company, a subsidiary of PG&E Corporation (NYSE: PCG), is a combined natural gas and electric utility serving more than sixteen million people across 70,000 square miles in Northern and Central California. For more information, visit pge.com and pge.com/news.  

About the World Changing Ideas Awards
World Changing Ideas is one of Fast Company's major annual awards programs and is focused on social good, seeking to elevate finished products and bold concepts that make the world better. Judges choose winners, finalists, and honorable mentions based on feasibility and the potential for impact. With the goals of awarding ingenuity and fostering innovation, Fast Company draws attention to ideas with great potential and helps them expand their reach to inspire more people to work on solving the problems that affect us all.

About Fast Company
Fast Company is the only media brand fully dedicated to the vital intersection of business, innovation, and design, engaging the most influential leaders, companies, and thinkers on the future of business. Headquartered in New York City, Fast Company is published by Mansueto Ventures LLC, along with our sister publication Inc., and can be found online at www.fastcompany.com.

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SOURCE Pacific Gas and Electric Company