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How are regulated utilities going to decarbonize their generating assets by 2050?

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  • Apr 11, 2021
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Asked by: - Managing Director, ESI

"A topic I would like to see addressed is how are regulated utilities going to decarbonize their generating assets by 2050? When I read the Integrated Resource Plans for some of the largest utilities in the US I do not see a plan in place to reach these goals. I believe that one of the underlying issues utilities have, is that they do not want to give up their current business model, and this is going to hold utilities back from achieving any where near net zero emissions."

This question was posed during a recent Energy Central PowerSession: "Innovating in a Highly Regulated Environment Part 2: Playing Nice with Regulators"

The PowerSession was so lively and packed with great information that the panelists were not able to address all the questions live, so we thought we would bring the question into the community. By posting the question in the community, anyone can follow the Q&A and or even participate.

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"A topic I would like to see addressed is how are regulated utilities going to decarbonize their generating assets by 2050? When I read the Integrated Resource Plans for some of the largest utilities in the US I do not see a plan in place to reach these goals."

There are several tacit assumptions here: 1) The current state of utility regulation in the U.S. amounts to more than a toothless pretense controlled by private interests; 2) Utilities wish to decarbonize their generating assets by 2050, and 3) Decarbonizing assets doesn't typically conflict with profitability.

You do not see a plan in place to reach these goals for the simple reason there aren't any. Despite many, many non-binding resolutions passed by state and federal legislators, no utility in the U.S. is obligated by any regulation, federal or state, to reach it.

The primary goal of government should be to re-establish accountability lost with the 2005 repeal of the 1935 Wheeler-Rayburn Act. Considered the most important federal legislation relating to utility electricity, the Act is a must-read, the starting line, for anyone seeking to understand energy policy in the U.S. It recognized electricity utilities were not like other corporations - that as natural monopolies, any and every action they took must be in the public interest.

Before they're again held to that standard, any expectation utilities will meet this or that voluntary goal will be unerringly and consistently disappointed.

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