Recently, large scale gas and electric utilities are making commitments to a carbon-neutral future. Their motivations, however, are not rooted in corporate responsibility; instead, economic trends are pointing to renewables for competitive advantage.
More large scale electric utilities and energy holding companies are being faced with a demand–businesses want more clean energy than ever. Francesco Starace, the CEO of Enel Group, an Italian multinational manufacturer and distributor of electricity and gas, has set a goal of becoming a carbon-neutral generator by 2050. Starace spoke on Enel's business clients' attitudes on renewables:
"[Businesses] prefer to have renewable energy because is it first and foremost competitive," Starace said. "Secondly, it is stable in the cost over the years, no fluctuation due to commodity volatility; and thirdly, it comes with no environmental liability risk. So there are three big benefits attached to this."
Enel's evolving strategy, reflected in their company's vision, looks to address the changing demands of energy customers.
Pictured: A utility-scale solar installation, the Gridley Solar Farm, constructed by Blue Oak Energy for Northern California Power Agency
Closer to home, the second largest utility company in the U.S, Southern Company, is making similar commitments. In a report released this month, CEO Thomas Fanning stated:
.... [Southern Co.] is establishing an intermediate goal of a 50 percent reduction in carbon emissions from 2007 levels by 2030 and a long-term goal of low- to no carbon operations by 2050.
When Fanning became CEO in 2010, Southern Co. relied on coal for about 70% of its electricity. That number has since decreased to 28% – in addition to shifting from coal to natural gas and nuclear, Southern Co. has been including solar and wind generation into their portfolio holdings.
Fanning stated that there will likely still be fossil fuels in the company's 2050 portfolio. Their goal to be fully or near carbon-neutral will be achieved by lessening their involvement with coal for substitutes of nuclear and natural gas while also integrating carbon capture and storage (CCS) technologies.
Southern Company's HQ in Atlanta, GA
At Solbid, we are excited to see renewable energy being promoted on the mainstream. As more utilities integrate solar into their portfolios, solar will become more affordable for larger populations. However, not all sources of "cleaner energy" are created equal. We hope that market pressures on these utilities push them further towards solar, wind, and hydro– and further from nuclear, natural gas, and CCS technologies.