Sierra Club shares dirty truth in report on utilities invested in fossil fuels

The 77 utility companies most invested in fossil fuels are planning to replace just 30 percent of their existing fossil fuel generation with clean energy by 2030, according to the Sierra Club’s 2023 Dirty Truth Report.

Utilities scored an overall grade of ‘D,’ in the report, with 43 percent showing no progress or receiving lower scores compared to the previous year. 

Although clean energy is less expensive than 99 percent of existing coal and new gas generation, only 20 of the 77 utilities have plans to be entirely coal-free by 2030.

And combined, these 77 utilities are planning to build 53 gigawatts of new gas plants through 2030, nearly 40 percent more than was planned last year.

Since the passage of the Inflation Reduction Act, only 30 utilities featured in the report have filed updated planning documents, and they received a score of 27/100, just one point higher than the total for all utilities.

If utilities fully utilize the incentives in the Inflation Reduction Act, they could save households hundreds of dollars in annual energy costs, create good-paying jobs, and reduce climate pollution for all communities. 

The Sierra Club’s annual Dirty Truth Report, supported by Bloomberg Philanthropies’ Beyond Carbon, analyzes the plans of 77 utilities owned by 50 parent companies and assigns scores and grades to the utilities based on three criteria: plans to retire polluting coal plants, whether they plan to build new gas power plants, and the scale of their plans to develop clean energy through 2030.

In an interactive webpage, users can see their utility’s score and what progress–if any–the utility has made toward transitioning to cleaner, more affordable energy. 

“Utilities are failing,” Sierra Club Executive Director Ben Jealous said. “And even worse, they seem to be OK failing to protect our health and our collective future. Despite earning low grades year after year, utilities are only planning enough clean energy to replace a fraction of their expensive, inefficient, and climate-destabilizing fossil fuel generation. 

“This is the moment for utilities to step into true climate leadership, embrace the readily available game-changing incentives they lobbied so heavily for, and deliver more reliable and affordable clean energy to working families. Our future and our children’s future depends on these utilities rising to the challenge to build an energy future that’s clean and sustainable.”

“The chokehold that fossil fuels continue to have on utilities is unacceptable and a disservice to the young people and children who will pay a steep price for continued inaction and indifference to the climate crisis,” said Antha Williams, who leads Bloomberg Philanthropies’ Environment Program. 

“Moving beyond fossil fuels isn’t just the right thing to do for our climate and planet – it’s also good business. Clean energy is less expensive than most coal and gas plants. Utilities must buck the short-term pressure of sticking with fossil fuels for the long-term prosperity of reliable, affordable, and clean energy for all,” said Williams.

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