Decarbonization Targets for the Largest U.S. Utilities
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Decarbonization Targets for the Largest U.S. Utilities

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The following content is sponsored by the National Public Utility Council

Decarbonization Targets for the Largest U.S. Utilities

The U.S. recently rejoined the Paris Climate Agreement and decarbonization is back on the minds of government officials and companies alike.

Though every sector plays a major role on the path to net zero carbon emissions, none are as impactful as the energy sector. In 2016, almost three-quarters of global GHG emissions came from energy consumption. With organizations looking to either curb energy consumption or transition to cleaner forms of energy, the pressure is on utilities to decarbonize and offer green alternatives.

How are U.S. utilities responding?

This infographic from the National Public Utility Council highlights the decarbonization targets of the largest investor-owned and public U.S. utilities.

U.S. Utility Decarbonization Targets Through 2035

The American energy sector has many players, but the largest utilities account for the bulk of production.

For each state, we looked at the largest investor-owned and public electric utilities by retail sales as tracked by the U.S. Energy Information Administration. Decarbonization targets were taken from each utility’s stated goals or sustainability report.

After narrowing down from 3,328 different entities and subsidiaries, the final list of 60 utilities accounted for 60% of U.S. energy sales in 2019 at just under 1.93 trillion MWh (megawatt hours).

Many companies on the list have multiple goals spread across different timeframes, but they can be grouped into a few distinct categories:

  • Reducing carbon dioxide (CO2) or greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions: These measures are either percentage-based or flat reductions, and also include becoming carbon neutral or “net zero” by balancing reduced emissions with carbon offsets.
  • Reducing carbon intensity: These measures work on reducing the impact of electricity generated by fossil fuels, rather than reducing the amount directly.
  • Increasing renewable energy production: These measures focus on adding renewable energy with a lower carbon footprint to the production mix and can be either percentage-based or flat additions.
  • Increasing clean electricity production: These measures are centered around ensuring that electricity produced is 100% carbon free.

Utilities with decarbonization targets set for 2035 and earlier vary wildly in scope, from completely carbon neutral to minimal reductions.

EntityState (Largest Provider)Decarbonization GoalTarget Year
City of SeattleWACarbon neutral2005 (since)
ALLETEMN△50% Renewable energy2021
ExelonDC, DE, IL, MD, NJ, PA▽15% GHG emissions2022
Otter Tail PowerND▽30% CO2 emissions, △30% Renewable energy2022
AvangridCT, ME▽35% GHG emissions2025
Emera (Tampa Electric)FL▽55% CO2 emissions2025
Green Mountain PowerVT▽100% CO2 emissions2025
NextEra EnergyFL▽67% CO2 emissions2025
NiSourceIN▽50% GHG emissions2025
NRGTX▽50% CO2 emissions2025
Avista CorpID, WACarbon neutral2027
AESIN▽70% Carbon intensity2030
AlliantIA, WI▽50% CO2 emissions2030
AmerenIL, MO▽50% CO2 emissions2030
American Electric PowerAR, KY, LA, MI, OK, OH, VA, WV▽70% CO2 emissions2030
Arizona Public ServiceAZ△65% Clean electricity2030
Black HillsSD, WY▽40% GHG emissions2030
City of Colorado SpringsCO▽80% CO2 emissions2030
DTE Electric CompanyMI▽50% CO2 emissions2030
Duke EnergyFL, IN, NC, OH, SC▽50% CO2 emissions2030
EntergyAR, LA, MS▽50% CO2 emissions2030
EversourceCT, MA, NHCarbon neutral2030
FirstEnergyMD, NJ, OH, PA▽30% GHG emissions2030
Green Mountain PowerVT△100% Renewable energy2030
Long Island Power AuthorityNY▽40% GHG emissions2030
MDU ResourcesND▽45% GHG emissions2030
National GridMA, NY, RI▽80% GHG emissions2030
NiSourceIN▽90% GHG emissions2030
NV EnergyNV△50% Renewable energy2030
OGE ElectricOK▽50% CO2 emissions2030
Pacific Gas & ElectricCA△60% Renewable energy2030
PacifiCorpID, OR, UT, WY▽60% CO2 emissions2030
PSEGNJ▽13 million tons CO2 emissions2030
Puget Sound EnergyWACarbon neutral2030
Southern California EdisonCA△60% Renewable energy2030
Southern Company AL, GA, MS▽50% CO2 emissions2030
Tennessee Valley AuthorityTN▽70% CO2 emissions2030
Vistra (TXU Energy Retail)TX▽60% CO2 emissions2030
WEC EnergyWI▽40% CO2 emissions2030
Xcel EnergyCO, MN, ND, NM, SD▽80% CO2 emissions2030
AvangridCT, MECarbon neutral2035
Salt River ProjectAZ▽65% Carbon intensity, ▽30% CO2 emissions2035
Tucson Electric PowerAZ▽80% CO2 emissions, △70% Renewable energy2035

It’s also important to note that carbon emission reductions are not equal across the board.

Reduction is traditionally based on a base-year measurement (usually 2000 or 2005) that changes for each utility, and a small reduction at a major energy producer can be more impactful than 100% clean energy at a small local utility.

U.S. Utility Decarbonization Targets 2040 and Beyond

From 2040 and beyond, the decarbonization efforts become more ambitious.

In line with many states and the federal government making sweeping clean energy commitments, most of the utility companies with decarbonization targets from 2040 to 2050 are aimed at either carbon neutrality or significant reductions.

For some companies these are their first and only targets, while others are building on smaller goals from earlier years. In the case of the few utility companies marked *N/A, a decarbonization target goal couldn’t be found.

EntityState (Largest Provider)Decarbonization GoalTarget Year
AmerenIL, MO▽85% CO2 emissions2040
Black HillsSD, WY▽70% GHG emissions2040
City of Colorado SpringsCO▽90% CO2 emissions2040
City of San AntonioTX▽80% CO2 emissions2040
CMS EnergyMICarbon neutral, △90% Clean electricity2040
Consolidated EdisonNY△100% Clean electricity2040
Emera (Tampa Electric)FL▽80% CO2 emissions2040
Lincoln Electric SystemNECarbon neutral2040
National GridMA, NY, RI▽90% GHG emissions2040
PNM ResourcesNM▽100% CO2 emissions2040
Portland General ElectricORCarbon neutral2040
PPLKY, PA▽70% CO2 emissions2040
Avista CorpID, WA△100% Clean electricity2045
Hawaiian Electric IndustriesHICarbon neutral, △100% Renewable energy2045
Idaho PowerID△100% Clean electricity2045
NorthWestern EnergyMT, SD▽90% Carbon intensity2045
Pacific Gas & ElectricCA△100% Clean electricity2045
Puget Sound EnergyWA△100% Clean electricity2045
SempraCA△100% Clean electricity2045
Southern California EdisonCA△100% Clean electricity2045
PSEGNJ▽80% CO2 emissions2046
AlliantIA, WICarbon neutral2050
AmerenIL, MOCarbon neutral2050
American Electric PowerAR, KY, LA, MI, OK, OH, VA, WV▽80% CO2 emissions2050
Arizona Public ServiceAZ△100% Clean electricity2050
City of San AntonioTXCarbon neutral2050
Dominion EnergyNC, SC, VACarbon neutral2050
DTE Electric CompanyMICarbon neutral2050
Duke EnergyFL, IN, NC, OH, SCCarbon neutral2050
Emera (Tampa Electric)FLCarbon neutral2050
EntergyAR, LA, MSCarbon neutral2050
EvergyKS, MO▽80% CO2 emissions2050
FirstEnergyMD, NJ, OH, PACarbon neutral2050
Long Island Power AuthorityNY▽85% GHG emissions2050
National GridMA, NY, RICarbon neutral2050
NRGTXCarbon neutral2050
NV EnergyNV△100% Clean electricity2050
Omaha Public Power DistrictNECarbon neutral2050
PacifiCorpID, OR, UT, WY▽80% CO2 emissions2050
PPLKY, PA▽80% CO2 emissions2050
PSEGNJCarbon neutral2050
Salt River ProjectAZ▽90% Carbon intensity2050
Southern Company AL, GA, MSCarbon neutral2050
Vistra (TXU Energy Retail)TXCarbon neutral2050
WEC EnergyWI▽80% CO2 emissions2050
Xcel EnergyCO, MN, ND, NM, SDCarbon neutral2050
MidAmerican EnergyIA, IL△100% Renewable energyN/A
Cleco PowerLAN/AN/A
ENMAX (Versant Power)MEN/AN/A
Nebraska Public Power DistrictNEN/AN/A
PUD 1 of Snohomish CountyWAN/AN/A
Unitil Energy SystemsNHN/AN/A

While the targets set above are significant, they are also a long time away from being met. With pressure to decarbonize increasing across the board, utility companies may need to reassess the impact or timeliness of their decarbonization targets.

The National Public Utilities Council is the go-to resource for all things decarbonization in the utilities industry. Learn more.

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The History of U.S. Energy Independence

This infographic traces the history of U.S. energy independence, showing the events that have shaped oil demand and imports over 150 years.

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history of U.S. energy independence

The History of U.S. Energy Independence

Energy independence has long been a part of America’s political history and foreign policy, especially since the 1970s.

Despite long being a leader in energy production, the U.S. has often still relied on oil imports to meet its growing needs. This “energy dependence” left the country and American consumers vulnerable to supply disruptions and oil price shocks.

The above infographic from Surge Battery Metals traces the history of U.S. energy independence, highlighting key events that shaped the country’s import reliance for oil. This is part one of three infographics in the Energy Independence Series.

How the U.S. Became Energy Dependent

Oil was first commercially drilled in the U.S. in 1859, when Colonel Edwin Drake developed an oil well in Titusville, Pennsylvania.

Twenty years later in 1880, the U.S. was responsible for 85% of global crude oil production and refining. But over the next century, the country became increasingly dependent on oil imports.

Here are some key events that affected America’s oil dependence and foreign policy during that time according to the Council on Foreign Relations:

  • 1908: Henry Ford invented the Model T, the world’s first mass-produced and affordable car.
  • 1914-1918: The U.S. began importing small quantities of oil from Mexico to meet the demands of World War I and domestic consumption.
  • 1942: In efforts to save gas and fuel for World War II, the Office of Defense Transportation implemented a national plan limiting driving speeds to 35 miles per hour.
  • 1943: President Roosevelt provided financial support to Saudi Arabia and declared Saudi oil critical to U.S. security.
  • 1950: With 40 million cars on the road, the U.S. became a net importer of oil bringing in around 500,000 barrels per day.
  • 1970: Twentieth century U.S. oil production peaked and President Nixon eased oil import quotas, allowing an additional 100,000 barrels per day in imports.

The U.S. economy’s increasing reliance on oil imports made it vulnerable to supply disruptions. For example, in 1973, in response to the U.S.’ support for Israel, Arab members of the OPEC imposed an embargo on oil exports to Western nations, creating the first “oil shock”. Oil prices nearly quadrupled, and American consumers felt the shock through long lineups at gas stations along with high inflation. Combined with rising unemployment rates and flattening wages, the increase in prices led to a period of stagflation.

Despite the energy crisis, U.S. oil production fell for decades, while the country met its increasing energy needs with oil from abroad.

The Rise and Fall of U.S. Oil Imports

Here’s how U.S. net imports of crude oil and petroleum products has evolved since 1950 in comparison with consumption and production. All figures are in millions of barrels per day (bpd).

YearConsumption (bpd)Production (bpd)Net imports (bpd)
19506.5M5.9M0.5M
19609.8M8.1M1.6M
197014.7M11.7M3.2M
198017.1M10.8M6.4M
199017.0M9.6M7.2M
200019.7M8.7M10.4M
201019.2M9.5M9.4M
202119.8M18.7M-0.2M

Net oil imports quadrupled between 1960 and 1980, marking the two biggest decadal jumps. Given that production was falling while consumption was booming, it’s clear why the U.S. needed to rely on imports.

Imports peaked in 2005, with net imports accounting for a record 60% of domestic consumption. Both imports and consumption fell in the years that followed. In 2009, for the first time since 1970, U.S. oil production increased thanks to the shale boom. It ascended until 2019 to make the U.S. the world’s largest oil producer.

As of 2021, the U.S. was a net exporter of refined petroleum products and hydrocarbon liquids but remained a net importer of crude oil.

The New Era of Energy

Oil and fossil fuels have long played a central role in the global energy mix. The U.S.’ reliance on other countries for oil made it energy-dependent, exposing American gas consumers to geopolitical shocks and volatile oil prices.

Today, the global energy shift away from fossil fuels towards cleaner sources of generation offers a new opportunity to use lessons from the past. By securing the raw materials needed to enable the energy transition, the U.S. can build a clean energy future independent of foreign sources.

In the next part of the Energy Independence Series sponsored by Surge Battery Metals, we will explore the New Era of Energy and the role of electric vehicles and renewables in the ongoing energy transition.

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Ranked: Emissions per Capita of the Top 30 U.S. Investor-Owned Utilities

Roughly 25% of all GHG emissions come from electricity production. See how the top 30 IOUs rank by emissions per capita.

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Emissions per Capita of the Top 30 U.S. Investor-Owned Utilities

Approximately 25% of all U.S. greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) come from electricity generation.

Subsequently, this means investor-owned utilities (IOUs) will have a crucial role to play around carbon reduction initiatives. This is particularly true for the top 30 IOUs, where almost 75% of utility customers get their electricity from.

This infographic from the National Public Utilities Council ranks the largest IOUs by emissions per capita. By accounting for the varying customer bases they serve, we get a more accurate look at their green energy practices. Here’s how they line up.

Per Capita Rankings

The emissions per capita rankings for the top 30 investor-owned utilities have large disparities from one another.

Totals range from a high of 25.8 tons of CO2 per customer annually to a low of 0.5 tons.

UtilityEmissions Per Capita (CO2 tons per year)Total Emissions (M)
TransAlta25.816.3
Vistra22.497.0
OGE Energy21.518.2
AES Corporation19.849.9
Southern Company18.077.8
Evergy14.623.6
Alliant Energy14.414.1
DTE Energy14.229.0
Berkshire Hathaway Energy14.057.2
Entergy13.840.5
WEC Energy13.522.2
Ameren12.831.6
Duke Energy12.096.6
Xcel Energy11.943.3
Dominion Energy11.037.8
Emera11.016.6
PNM Resources10.55.6
PPL Corporation10.428.7
American Electric Power9.250.9
Consumers Energy8.716.1
NRG Energy8.229.8
Florida Power and Light8.041.0
Portland General Electric7.66.9
Fortis Inc.6.112.6
Avangrid5.111.6
PSEG3.99.0
Exelon3.834.0
Consolidated Edison1.66.3
Pacific Gas and Electric0.52.6
Next Era Energy Resources01.1

PNM Resources data is from 2019, all other data is as of 2020

Let’s start by looking at the higher scoring IOUs.

TransAlta

TransAlta emits 25.8 tons of CO2 emissions per customer, the largest of any utility on a per capita basis. Altogether, the company’s 630,000 customers emit 16.3 million metric tons. On a recent earnings call, its management discussed clear intent to phase out coal and grow their renewables mix by doubling their renewables fleet. And so far it appears they’ve been making good on their promise, having shut down the Canadian Highvale coal mine recently.

Vistra

Vistra had the highest total emissions at 97 million tons of CO2 per year and is almost exclusively a coal and gas generator. However, the company announced plans for 60% reductions in CO2 emissions by 2030 and is striving to be carbon neutral by 2050. As the highest total emitter, this transition would make a noticeable impact on total utility emissions if successful.

Currently, based on their 4.3 million customers, Vistra sees per capita emissions of 22.4 tons a year. The utility is a key electricity provider for Texas, ad here’s how their electricity mix compares to that of the state as a whole:

Energy SourceVistraState of Texas
Gas63%52%
Coal29%15%
Nuclear6%9%
Renewables1%24%
Oil1%0%

Despite their ambitious green energy pledges, for now only 1% of Vistra’s electricity comes from renewables compared to 24% for Texas, where wind energy is prospering.

Based on those scores, the average customer from some of the highest emitting utility groups emit about the same as a customer from each of the bottom seven, who clearly have greener energy practices. Let’s take a closer look at emissions for some of the bottom scoring entities.

Utilities With The Greenest Energy Practices

Groups with the lowest carbon emission scores are in many ways leaders on the path towards a greener future.

Exelon

Exelon emits only 3.8 tons of CO2 emissions per capita annually and is one of the top clean power generators across the Americas. In the last decade they’ve reduced their GHG emissions by 18 million metric tons, and have recently teamed up with the state of Illinois through the Clean Energy Jobs Act. Through this, Exelon will receive $700 million in subsidies as it phases out coal and gas plants to meet 2030 and 2045 targets.

Consolidated Edison

Consolidated Edison serves nearly 4 million customers with a large chunk coming from New York state. Altogether, they emit 1.6 tons of CO2 emissions per capita from their electricity generation.

The utility group is making notable strides towards a sustainable future by expanding its renewable projects and testing higher capacity limits. In addition, they are often praised for their financial management and carry the title of dividend aristocrat, having increased their dividend for 47 years and counting. In fact, this is the longest out of any utility company in the S&P 500.

A Sustainable Tomorrow

Altogether, utilities will have a pivotal role to play in decarbonization efforts. This is particularly true for the top 30 U.S. IOUs, who serve millions of Americans.

Ultimately, this means a unique moment for utilities is emerging. As the transition toward cleaner energy continues and various groups push to achieve their goals, all eyes will be on utilities to deliver.

The National Public Utilities Council is the go-to resource to learn how utilities can lead in the path towards decarbonization.

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