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CATF Tracks States’ and Utilities’ Carbon Reduction Commitments

October 1, 2020 Work Area: Power Plants

States and Utilities Mid-Century Clean Energy Commitments Now Surpass 50% Of U.S. Electricity Sales and CO2 Power Plant Emissions

Entergy And Ameren Are Latest Utilities To Commit To Zero-Carbon Operations By 2050;  Michigan Governor Issues Zero Carbon Executive Order

BOSTON, October 1, 2020 – This past week, two major US utilities, Entergy and Ameren, both issued pledges to reduce carbon emissions from their operations to net-zero by 2050. Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer also signed an Executive Order calling for statewide decarbonization by 2050.  They join a growing roster of states and utilities taking similar pledges to address climate change by switching electricity generation from fossil fuels to a diverse portfolio of zero carbon sources.

This trend runs in direct contrast to the retrograde actions of the Trump Administration on addressing climate change at the federal level.  However, the last three years have seen a marked, positive shift in many state and utility company energy and climate policies, as dozens of states and utilities have moved towards ambitious carbon targets and an embrace of diverse technologies to achieve them through “Clean Electricity Standards” (or CES’s).

For many years, clean electricity policies focused either on achieving targets for renewable energy through “renewable portfolio standards” or setting emissions caps. Instead, CES’s typically require an increasing percentage of zero-carbon electricity. As opposed to carbon emission limits or pricing, CES’s focus on bringing more clean energy resources to market.

For example, with operations in Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas, Entergy plans a phase-out of its existing coal fleet by 2030, a continued reliance on nuclear as a key component of the energy supply mix and to ramp up RD&D of renewable energy sources.  Ameren, with operations in Missouri and Illinois, will add thousands of megawatts of wind and solar generation over the next three decades and retire its fleet of existing coal-fired power plants.

The state of Michigan is taking the first steps by creating the Michigan Healthy Climate Plan that will achieve full decarbonization across all economic sectors by 2050 with a major emphasis on creating clean energy jobs.

So, to illustrate the progress that has been made in this field, Clean Air Task Force has built an interactive map that shows these commitments by geographic area and can be edited in real time.  We have also created lists of recently enacted and proposed state CES’s and utility company pledges, and two charts that show their significance in terms of approximate national electric market sales and carbon emissions covered by these pledges.  The charts graphically demonstrate that, with the Entergy and Ameren announcements, both of those metrics have now risen to more than 50% of total electricity sales and CO2 emissions.

CATF has taken a leadership position to advocate with both states and utilities for the introduction and implementation of CES policies. We promote a greater understanding that the addition of low- or no-carbon, always-available energy – such as nuclear energy or gas-type power plants in which the carbon is removed and permanently stored – could substantially reduce the costs of reaching stringent carbon targets.  This effort is led by Andrew Place, CATF State Energy and Climate Policy Director and a long-time veteran of climate and energy policy in both the public and private sectors, mainly in Pennsylvania.

“These latest actions illustrate the growing consensus throughout the United States – from Louisiana to Missouri and California to the Carolinas — from governors and legislatures, to electric utilities – to decarbonize the power system,” said Place. “The next step will involve translating these high-level commitments into actionable pathways to achieve these impressive, clean energy goals.”

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