Leaders and laggards in the race to clean powerWe Mean Business
Last week Ceres released a new report highlighting the leaders driving the clean energy revolution in the US energy sector. The benchmarking report looked at the 30 largest electric utility companies, accounting for about 60% of the total U.S. electricity sales.
The analysis ranks utilities according to three different parameters: renewable energy sales, annual increase in energy efficiency and overall performance in energy efficiency. Unsurprisingly, the strongest performance came from utilities based in states with stronger clean energy policies, such as Sempra Energy and PG&E in California, Xcel Energy in Minnesota and others across Massachusetts and Colorado.
Electricity from renewable sources made up 20-35% of the total sales in 2014 among the top performers. But the huge disparity across the ranking makes it clear that the Clean Power Plan is critical to drive U.S. climate strategy across all states, if it withstands court challenges.
The Environmental Protection Agency’s flagship plan aims to reduce carbon emissions from electric power plants by 32% from 2005 levels by 2030, encouraging utilities to increase their production of electricity from renewable sources and implement more effective energy efficiency measures.
The report came just as the United States, Canada and Mexico forged an historic North-American partnership that included environmental and climate targets.
Mexico joined the pledge set earlier this year by the two other North-American countries to cut methane emissions by 40-45% below 2012 levels by 2025. The three countries also agreed to set a common goal to deliver 50% clean energy by 2025 across the continent, up 13% from last year’s level.
Adding this commitment to the pledge that the United States will ratify the Paris Agreement this year, it is clear that the Clean Power Plan is crucial to ensure the country delivers on its promises.
Ceres’ analysis also highlights the economic benefits of the Plan, as “energy efficiency is the lowest-cost energy resource and renewable energy costs continues to decline dramatically.”
Finally, the report shows that the increasing number of renewable energy goals set by the corporate sector is playing an important role in the U.S. low-carbon transition. Dan Bakal, Ceres electric power director, stresses how this trend is growing across all states, even those that are lagging in clean energy policies, making a stronger business case for renewable energy.
As more companies switch to renewable energy and drive up the demand, they also shed light on the current barriers and challenges that companies are facing when taking such decisions. Swift implementation of climate policies and regulations across U.S. states will help accelerate the shift to clean energy, but whatever the fate of the Clean Power Plan – there is no doubt the business case for clean power will continue to gain momentum.