ORIGINAL REPORTING: As 100% renewables goals proliferate, what role for utilities?
As 100% renewables goals proliferate, what role for utilities? The behind demand for renewables is growing; utilities lose if they ignore it and there is much to gain in planning ahead.
Herman K. Trabish, April 2, 2019 (Utility Dive)
Editor’s note: The divide between utilities supporting this transition and those failing to move remains but the number making changes is growing.
Utilities and state regulators take note: As of August 14, 133 U.S. cities have officially declared they want 100% renewables for their electric power needs in the next one to two decades. That will be a big change in electricity use. Over 300 U.S. localities have committed to a renewables or climate change goal, according to the World Resources Institute(WRI). And, led by local efforts, six states have committed to be 100% carbon-free by mid-century. Another dozen are moving that way. But while the goals are simple, the paths to achieving them are not.
Electric utilities can play a major role in achieving these commitments to renewables and greenhouse gas emission (GHG) reductions, leaders of the push for renewables told Utility Dive. Where utilities don't get involved, economic growth is lost and utilities lose customers "to nontraditional electricity providers," according to a new white paper on localities' clean energy goals from business consultant Deloitte. Where utilities do get involved, collaboration leads to innovation that helps localities meet their goals more quickly and cost-effectively. And, through meeting their obligation to serve, utilities can add to their kWh sales and open up revenue streams in areas ranging from energy efficiency to transportation electrification.
Sierra Club's Ready for 100 Campaign, which is helping to drive the growth of 100% commitments along with WRI and others, encourages "proactive discussions" between cities and utilities, Program Executive Director Jodie Van Horn told Utility Dive. Collaborations have led to "decisions by utilities to move from traditional generation to renewables." Collaboration is in the interests of all stakeholders, Deloitte U.S. and Global Renewable Energy Leader and paper co-author Marlene Motyka, agreed. San Diego Gas and Electric (SDG&E) is playing a key role in San Diego's Smart City initiative, Motyka pointed out. And Xcel Energy is partnering with the newly-created community of Peña Station Next to implement "the best practices in sustainability and clean energy."
Electricity customers, corporations, localities, utilities and states have declared unequivocally they want change. An August 2018 Yale University poll showed 77% of "American adults" support regulating carbon emissions and 63% support a requirement for at least 20% renewables. Over 60% said Congress should do more to address climate change, over 55% want their governors and local officials to do more and 68% want corporations to do more. Corporations and utilities are responding. 2017's 23 Fortune 500 companies with 100% renewables goals grew to 53 companies in 2018, WRI reported. But, Motyka said, the Georgetown, Texas, municipal utility, once a banner-carrier for the 100% renewables movement, is now revealing the challenges that come with that big change in electricity use… click here for more
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