As the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) prepares for July 29th – August 1st listening sessions on its Clean Power Plan for existing power plants, a new report from Ceres and Clean Edge ranks the nation’s largest electric utilities and their local subsidiaries on their renewable energy sales and energy efficiency savings. The report found that many utilities are deploying lower carbon fuel sources and that state policies are a key driver in that performance, but there is variability in performance even among utilities operating in the same states.
A first-of-its-kind report, Benchmarking Utility Clean Energy ranks the 32 largest electric utility holding companies, which collectively account for about 68 percent of 2012 U.S. retail electricity sales, on three clean energy indicators. The report also provides data on 87 subsidiary companies – the distribution utilities to which electricity consumers pay their monthly bills. Subsidiaries’ rankings generally tracked with the rankings of their larger parent holding companies – though some outperformed or underperformed their owners and peers.
“Renewable energy and energy efficiency, two of EPA’s Clean Power Plan building blocks, are increasingly cost-effective options for electric utilities seeking to lower their carbon emissions,” said Mindy Lubber, President of Ceres, a nonprofit sustainability advocacy organization, which authored the report in partnership with Clean Edge. “Our analysis shows that some utilities are beginning to deliver substantial amounts of clean energy and energy efficiency, while others are lagging.”
Among the 32 holding companies, NV Energy, Xcel, PG&E, Sempra, and Edison International were found to rank the highest for renewable energy sales, with renewable resources accounting for nearly 17 to 21 percent of their retail electricity sales in 2012. Southern Company, SCANA, Dominion, AES, and Entergy ranked at the bottom, with renewable energy sales accounting for less than two percent of each company’s total power sales. Five of the 32 companies included in this report accounted for nearly 54 percent of renewable energy sales.
“Xcel Energy’s clean energy strategy is a model for how utilities and states can work together to significantly reduce emissions at the lowest cost for customers,” said Frank Prager, Vice President, Policy and Strategy, for Xcel Energy. “Collaborating with our states has enabled us to provide the renewable resources and efficiency programs that customers value without compromising the highly reliable and affordable energy service they require.”
Energy efficiency top performers among holding companies included PG&E, Edison International, and Northeast Utilities, whose cumulative annual energy efficiency savings were equivalent to 16 to 17 percent of their annual retail electric sales in 2012. PSEG, SCANA, Pepco Holdings, Dominion Resources, and Entergy ranked at the bottom, with cumulative annual energy efficiency savings accounting for less than one percent of their annual retail sales.
“One of the keys to becoming a leading utility in the country is to be innovative and environmentally sensitive, and this report from Ceres and Clean Edge shows how we’re achieving that in the key area of clean energy,” said PG&E President Chris Johns. “Our customers want PG&E to provide solutions to the challenge of global warming, while at the same time helping them use less energy and save money. As their local utility, we’re focused on partnering with our customers to develop innovative energy solutions and meeting their needs well into the future.”
Analyzing 2012 data from nearly a dozen federal, state and industry sources, including the U.S. Energy Information Administration, state Renewable Portfolio Standard annual reports and U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission 10-K filings, the report benchmarked companies on three indicators: 1) renewable energy sales, or the total amount of retail renewable electricity sold, including Renewable Energy Credits retired by the utility; 2) cumulative annual energy efficiency savings, which includes savings from projects that were implemented in prior years and were still saving energy in 2012; and 3) incremental annual energy efficiency savings, or the energy savings from new programs or new participants in existing programs.