Sierra Club Report Card: Dominion, Appalachian Power, FirstEnergy grade poorly on clean energy
A new Sierra Club clean energy report card gives Dominion Energy Virginia a “D” and Appalachian Power and FirstEnergy Corporation an “F.”
The report notes that Dominion’s and Appalachian Power’s stated goals are to reach net-zero emissions over 30 years from now, but this next decade is the one that really matters if we’re to have any hope of avoiding the most damaging climate change scenarios.
FirstEnergy Corporation received an “F” for what the report cites is a lack of serious clean energy goals that don’t begin to approach the timeline for meaningful action and continued heavy reliance on dirty coal energy.
FirstEnergy has issued publicly stated goals of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 30 percent by 2030 and 90 percent by 2045.
“The Dirty Truth About Utility Climate Pledges report bears out what we’ve long suspected of utility executives who use ‘carbon pledges’ to mollify demands for climate action: They are much more talk than actual action,” said Mary Anne Hitt, national director of Campaigns at the Sierra Club.
“‘The infuriating truth is that many utilities are not only protecting their coal plants from retirement, but are also actively planning to build out climate destabilizing gas plants — ignoring climate science, delaying their embrace of renewables, and pushing us further into the crisis. This report and utility tracker website gives customers the transparency they need to hold their utilities accountable now and in the future.”
In addition to The Dirty Truth About Utility Climate Pledges report, Sierra Club also launched an interactive website that allows the public to look up their utility’s grade, its coal plant retirement schedule (if one exists), its planned gas plant capacity, and its investments in clean energy.
The website also includes a national map to help users look up their service area and a digital dashboard for researchers, energy analysts, and media partners to keep track of each utility’s progress over the next decade.
“At this point, we need to instill a ‘trust but verify’ process with power providers who vaguely pledge to reduce their carbon emissions, but set no timely plans in place to retire their coal and gas plants or significantly increase their clean energy investments,” Hitt said. “This is especially important regarding the recent popularity of ESG investing. Investors should not just look at a carbon neutrality pledge and assume a utility is taking the climate crisis seriously; they must compare these pledges to what utilities are actually doing to stop contributing to it.”
The report and dashboard sources its information from utilities’ long-term energy plans — known as Integrated Resource Plans (IRPs) — the Energy Information Administration, S&P Global Market Intelligence, and major announcements from the 50 utilities that generate the most electricity from coal and gas.
Those 50 worst offenders include investor-owned utilities, power authorities (like the Tennessee Valley Authority), generation and transmission co-ops, and large municipal utilities. In total, it examines plans for 79 operating companies owned by 50 unique parent companies.
“The consequences of allowing utilities to continue to delay the transition to clean energy will be particularly disastrous for low-income communities and communities of color,” Hitt said. “These communities already bear the worst burdens of fossil fuel pollution, and as the consequences for sea level rise, extreme weather, and general instability increase, they’ll be put in increasingly worse circumstances. Our hope is that the public and government officials will use this data to help these communities demand accountability from the utilities that are standing in the way of real climate justice and technological progress.”