Southeastern utilities agree to decarbonize but delay action in resource plans
Atlanta, GA – The third annual “Tracking Decarbonization in the Southeast: Generation and Carbon Emissions” report, released today by the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy (SACE), analyzes generation and emissions from the electric power sector in the Southeast over the past decade and as planned for the next fifteen years. The Southeast is home to some of the biggest utility systems in the nation – Duke Energy, Southern Company, NextEra, and the Tennessee Valley Authority – and the role that electric utilities are, or aren’t, playing in decarbonizing the power supply is more critical than ever as the Biden Administration aims for a carbon-free power sector by 2035.
Several electric utilities in the region have set long-term goals to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by transitioning away from fossil fuels. However, despite moderate improvements in many utility plans, current utility plans for how to meet future load fall short of the trajectories recommended to avoid the worst of the climate crisis.
In a webinar on Wednesday, April 21 at 1 PM ET, report authors Heather Pohnan and Maggie Shober will provide an overview of the report, including time to answer attendees’ questions. For those who aren’t able to tune into the live webinar, a recording will be sent following the webinar to everyone who registers.
During the webinar, Pohnan and Shober will examine insights and trends presented in the report, including:
- Rate of decarbonization based on current utility plans
- Continued utility operation of coal power plants and investment in new gas infrastructure
- Interplay between the electric power and transportation sectors
- Impact of federal and state policy on the electricity fuel mix in the region
- Opportunities for decarbonization through utility resource planning and the expansion of competition in the regional electric sector
“Looking at the rate of decarbonization gives us a window into just how long it will take to reach zero emissions based on what utilities are telling regulators in their resource plans. While decarbonization by mid-century could be possible if utilities reduce emissions at the rate observed over the past decade, that is not what current utility plans show. Instead, plans show that decarbonization will slow now that the lowest-hanging fruit has been picked,” said Heather Pohnan, SACE Energy Policy Manager. “At this point in time, every choice matters. Every year of delaying investments in energy efficiency and renewable energy delays the year we can get the grid to zero emissions.”
Maggie Shober, SACE Director of Utility Reform, said, “Utility resource plans today show moderate improvement over those analyzed just one year ago, though the rate of decarbonization is still projected to slow. One example is that Duke Energy’s two utilities in the Carolinas released a resource plan in the fall of 2020 that modeled a few low carbon scenarios. However, even that resource plan sets up a false choice that the utility must build new fossil gas in order to retire coal plants instead of focusing on proven zero-emission resources like energy efficiency and solar.”
“The Biden Administration is proposing that the electric sector reach 80% clean energy by 2030 and 100% clean energy by 2035. This is an important policy initiative that will require Southeast utilities to move beyond talk and into more serious actions. We anticipate regional utilities will need to increase investments in clean energy resources and get their resource plans on track to achieve the deep decarbonization required to meet this policy goal and limit the impacts from dangerous climate disruption,” said Dr. Stephen A. Smith, SACE Executive Director.