An ICF International survey showed less than half of U.S. utility companies make decarbonization efforts, even though about 90% of the companies report that reducing emissions is of high or moderate priority for them.
ICF International, a consultancy firm based in Virginia, wrote that “the yawning gap” between concerns and actions “indicates leaders know they need to do ‘something,’ but either don’t know what to do or can’t implement a strategy due to lack of capital or regulatory support.”
Out of the 190 executives of utility companies surveyed, only 38% said they have decarbonization plans, while 61% said they are currently working on a strategy or would start working on one within the next five years.
The survey findings come in the context of worrying turn of events on a policy level. The U.S. Supreme Court recently took the decision to limit EPA’s authority to regulate emissions; Moreover, Senator Joe Manchin announced this month he would not support climate spending.
When asked what difficulties they have in achieving climate goals, the survey executives said they lack capital or have concerns that regulators would not allow rate growth to cover investments in green energy.
“Utilities are moving as fast as public policy will support,” said ICF senior fellow Val Jensen. “They can’t get ahead of their regulator.”
Jenson also said another obstacle may be the regulators’ unfamiliarity with rate increase requests to bring down CO2 emissions as compared to standard investment requests for the security of power systems. Clean energy investments may also suffer because utility companies are pressed to fund the fortification of energy systems against severe weather.
Utilities have decreased emissions by 35% since 2005 but the future pace of the industry’s reductions is unclear. A recent analysis of decarbonization in the Southeast suggests the reductions will slow down.