The Environmental Journal of Southern Appalachia

New SACE report documents shortfalls and headwinds against utility decarbonization

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Southern Alliance for Clean Energy's fourth annual “Tracking Decarbonization in the Southeast: Generation and Carbon Emissions” report will be released Wednesday, June 22

Amy Rawe is communications director for Knoxville-based Southern Alliance for Clean Energy.

KNOXVILLE — The report examines power-sector generation and emissions throughout the Southeast, which is home to some of the biggest utility systems in the nation, including Duke Energy, Southern Company, NextEra Energy, and the Tennessee Valley Authority.

Many of these Southeastern utilities have been in the national spotlight for their professed commitment to decarbonization, but there are often inconsistencies between stated goals and resource plans.

The role that electric utilities play in addressing the climate crisis has only grown more important. Decarbonization of the power sector is critical to lowering fossil fuel use and emissions in all sectors since electrification of vehicles, home appliances, and more relies on utility-generated power. The mix of resources that utilities use for power is more critical than ever, especially when they continue to include fossil fuels. As climate science shows, we need to achieve net-zero global greenhouse gas emissions between 2040 and 2055 at the latest to avoid the worst impacts of the climate crisis.

The report highlights that current utility resource plans are not on track to achieve this goal. Obstacles to getting utilities on track that are highlighted in the report include:

Increasing reliance on fossil gas; underutilizing energy efficiency; and placing limitations on popular technologies such as rooftop solar.

Southern Alliance for Clean Energy believes delaying further decarbonization until the next year or the next decade is too risky for residents of a region expected to feel the impacts of climate change first and worst.

In the webinar on noon Thursday, June 23, report authors Heather Pohnan and Maggie Shober will provide an overview of the report, including time to answer attendees’ questions. For those who aren’t able to tune into the live webinar, a recording will be sent with access to the report to everyone who registers.

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