In its latest report rating the progress of utility companies transitioning from fossil fuels such as coal into clean energy like wind and solar, the Sierra Club is giving an overall grade of “D” to utilities, mainly for showing little to no progress.
The report, which calls for more clean energy, claimed although the energy is less expensive than 99% of existing coal and new gas generation, only 20 of the 77 utilities have plans to be entirely coal-free by 2030.
However, Florida Power & Light has earned an exception this year. The state’s largest utility, which is a subsidiary of NextEra, was graded “B” for declaring an end to coal use by 2030.
Susannah Randolph, Florida senior campaign representative for the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal Campaign, pointed out companies such as NextEra are now recognizing the economic advantages of transitioning to clean energy, depending on market dynamics.
“I think the company has seen now that, when they look at their unregulated market, they’re getting huge profits on renewable energy,” Randolph observed. “In Florida, that philosophy has really taken hold with Florida Power & Light, so we’re seeing huge investment in renewable energies.”
Neither NextEra nor Florida Power & Light responded to a request for comment, but it has a “Real Zero” commitment to eliminate carbon emissions by 2045.
While the Sierra Club is encouraging more utilities to make similar strong commitments, it does call on each utility to provide details on how they plan to achieve those goals and targets.
Last year, the Inflation Reduction Act made hundreds of billions of dollars available to companies to address climate change. Randolph noted there are several economic incentives for utilities to make a clean transition easily.
“We’re seeing enormous direct pay and other types of incentives for municipal utilities to invest in renewable energy,” Randolph explained. “It’s essentially a 30%, 40% off sale on renewable energy.”
According to the report, Duke Energy Florida earned an “F” for clinging to fossil fuels. Duke’s subsidiary companies made an overall “D,” with plans to retire only 30% of coal plant power generation by 2030 while building several new gas plants.