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Electric Power

Once stable and predictable, the electric power sector faces significant new challenges and opportunities in the 21st century. U.S. utilities, the largest contributor to global warming pollution in the country, must be ready to serve more people using less energy, reduce carbon emissions, transition to cleaner energy sources and develop more sophisticated grid technologies. Business-as-usual is no longer a viable strategy and exciting new solutions are emerging to power our future.

Powering the Future

The demands on electric utilities in the 21st century are radically different than the demands of the past. Fossil fuels like coal are increasingly seen as financially risky and inevitable carbon reduction policies are driving utilities to look for cleaner ways to power our factories, offices and homes. Investors are becoming increasingly concerned about long-term risks across their portfolios and are pressuring utilities to be more aggressive in managing the long-term effects of climate regulations, water scarcity and other sustainability risks they face.

As the world transitions to a low-carbon economy, electric utilities face growing pressure to provide cleaner energy to more people at reasonable prices, changing the way utilities source and deliver energy in the future.

Ceres' November 2011 report, New Jobs - Cleaner Air: An Investment in American Businesses and American Jobs, highlighted specific case examples of the companies involved in building a modern generating fleet. It examined the component pieces of the supply chain and explored the vital role that American workers play in installing and maintaining sophisticated emissions control systems.

Much has changed since November, most notably the market forces that have driven down the price of natural gas to historic lows and sped up the retirement and retrofit of America's oldest power plants. This follow up interactive presentation (above) supplements our earlier work by highlighting specific states where the electric power sector is going through a significant transition that is unleashing investment, reducing emissions, generating jobs and creating a cleaner electric power fleet to power our homes, businesses and communities.

Electric Power Initiatives

Ceres works with electric power companies, investors, and a range of stakeholders and other experts to advance innovative solutions for the 21st century electric power sector. We work with industry to identify, disclose and address wide-ranging environmental, social and economic challenges, and to promote energy efficiency, reduce carbon emissions, increase renewable energy and improve power grid technologies to deliver cleaner power to more people in better ways. To learn more about our work with electric utility companies, watch the short film below.

The 21st Century Electric Utility

Ceres recently released a groundbreaking report, The 21st Century Electric Utility: Positioning for a Low-Carbon Future, which outlines five key elements of a 21st century electric utility business model and makes specific recommendations to utilities as they transition to a low-carbon future.

These recommendations include:

  • Manage carbon across the enterprise
  • Pursue all cost-effective energy efficiency
  • Deploy large-scale and distributed renewable energy
  • Utilize smart grid technologies for consumer benefit
  • Conduct robust and transparent resource planning


Ceres is using this report to move utilities, investors and regulators toward more sustainable solutions as the 21st century low-carbon economy takes hold.

Ceres Roadmap for Sustainability

The 21st Century Corporation: The Ceres Roadmap for Sustainability, is a practical guide to help companies integrate sustainability across their entire enterprise, regardless of sector or industry. It analyzes key drivers, risks and opportunities in making the shift to sustainability and details strategies and positive outcomes from companies who are taking on these challenges. The Ceres Roadmap is designed to provide a comprehensive platform for companies and investors to accelerate sustainable business strategies.

In 2014, in conjunction with Gaining Ground: Corporate Progress on the Ceres Roadmap for Sustainability, Ceres released a Utility Sector Report analyzing how well U.S. utilities are doing to integrate sustainability into their business practices.

Stakeholder Engagement

Ceres holds regular stakeholder engagements with several of the nation’s largest electric power companies, including National Grid, Exelon, PG&E and Arizona Public Service (APS). These stakeholder meetings bring together corporate executives, investors and public interest groups to focus company attention on sustainability risks and set specific goals for managing them, including by reducing carbon emissions and water use and increasing energy efficiency and renewable energy targets and addressing the sustainability impacts of their suppliers.

Investor Action

Investors in Ceres' Investor Network on Climate Risk are using their leverage as shareholders to secure meaningful commitments on sustainability challenges from companies they invest in. Through shareholder resolutions and face-to-face meetings, investors working with Ceres are asking utilities to improve their transparency on sustainability-related risks and to set tangible performance goals for reducing their carbon footprint and water use.

Policy and Regulation

Ceres is building business and investor support for forward-thinking clean energy policies regionally, nationally and globally. We’ve mobilized investors and electric power companies to support national climate and energy policies, including the important defeat of Proposition 23 in California in November 2010, which would have stalled implementation of the state’s climate policy.

Ceres also released the report, New Jobs-Cleaner Air: Employment Effects under Planned Changes to EPA’s Air Pollution Rules, which details the jobs created through investments in pollution controls, new plant construction, and the retirement of older, less efficient coal plants as the country transitions to a cleaner, modernized generation fleet under new EPA clean air standards.

Benchmarking

Ceres issues bi-annual reports benchmarking air emissions of the nation’s 100 largest electric power companies. This information is used by companies, investors, analysts and advocates to evaluate and track companies’ emissions performance across the industry. The most recent report was released in June 2010.

For more information

Read articles, download reports and listen to podcasts about the electric power industry listed on the right-hand side of this page.

Contact

To learn more about how Ceres works with the electric power industry, or to get involved in Ceres' work, contact Dan Bakal, Director, Electric Power Program.