How does the U.S. get to zero-carbon electricity?As Featured on Visual Capitalist

How does the U.S. get to zero-carbon electricity?As Featured on Visual Capitalist

Decarbonization Targets for the Largest U.S. Utilities

The U.S. recently rejoined the Paris Climate Agreement and decarbonization is back on the minds of government officials and companies alike.

Though every sector plays a major role on the path to net zero carbon emissions, none are as impactful as the energy sector. In 2016, almost three-quarters of global GHG emissions came from energy consumption. With organizations looking to either curb energy consumption or transition to cleaner forms of energy, the pressure is on utilities to decarbonize and offer green alternatives.

How are U.S. utilities responding?

This infographic from the National Public Utility Council highlights the decarbonization targets of the largest investor-owned and public U.S. utilities.

U.S. Utility Decarbonization Targets Through 2035

The American energy sector has many players, but the largest utilities account for the bulk of production.

For each state, we looked at the largest investor-owned and public electric utilities by retail sales as tracked by the U.S. Energy Information Administration. Decarbonization targets were taken from each utility’s stated goals or sustainability report.

After narrowing down from 3,328 different entities and subsidiaries, the final list of 60 utilities accounted for 60% of U.S. energy sales in 2019 at just under 1.93 trillion MWh (megawatt hours).

Many companies on the list have multiple goals spread across different timeframes, but they can be grouped into a few distinct categories:

  • Reducing carbon dioxide (CO2) or greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions: These measures are either percentage-based or flat reductions, and also include becoming carbon neutral or “net zero” by balancing reduced emissions with carbon offsets.
  • Reducing carbon intensity: These measures work on reducing the impact of electricity generated by fossil fuels, rather than reducing the amount directly.
  • Increasing renewable energy production: These measures focus on adding renewable energy with a lower carbon footprint to the production mix and can be either percentage-based or flat additions.
  • Increasing clean electricity production: These measures are centered around ensuring that electricity produced is 100% carbon free.

Utilities with decarbonization targets set for 2035 and earlier vary wildly in scope, from completely carbon neutral to minimal reductions.

 

EntityState (Largest Provider)Decarbonization GoalTarget Year
City of SeattleWACarbon neutral2005 (since)
ALLETEMN△50% Renewable energy2021
ExelonDC, DE, IL, MD, NJ, PA▽15% GHG emissions2022
Otter Tail PowerND▽30% CO2 emissions, △30% Renewable energy2022
AvangridCT, ME▽35% GHG emissions2025
Emera (Tampa Electric)FL▽55% CO2 emissions2025
Green Mountain PowerVT▽100% CO2 emissions2025
NextEra EnergyFL▽67% CO2 emissions2025
NiSourceIN▽50% GHG emissions2025
NRGTX▽50% CO2 emissions2025
Avista CorpID, WACarbon neutral2027
AESIN▽70% Carbon intensity2030
AlliantIA, WI▽50% CO2 emissions2030
AmerenIL, MO▽50% CO2 emissions2030
American Electric PowerAR, KY, LA, MI, OK, OH, VA, WV▽70% CO2 emissions2030
Arizona Public ServiceAZ△65% Clean electricity2030
Black HillsSD, WY▽40% GHG emissions2030
City of Colorado SpringsCO▽80% CO2 emissions2030
DTE Electric CompanyMI▽50% CO2 emissions2030
Duke EnergyFL, IN, NC, OH, SC▽50% CO2 emissions2030
EntergyAR, LA, MS▽50% CO2 emissions2030
EversourceCT, MA, NHCarbon neutral2030
FirstEnergyMD, NJ, OH, PA▽30% GHG emissions2030
Green Mountain PowerVT△100% Renewable energy2030
Long Island Power AuthorityNY▽40% GHG emissions2030
MDU ResourcesND▽45% GHG emissions2030
National GridMA, NY, RI▽80% GHG emissions2030
NiSourceIN▽90% GHG emissions2030
NV EnergyNV△50% Renewable energy2030
OGE ElectricOK▽50% CO2 emissions2030
Pacific Gas & ElectricCA△60% Renewable energy2030
PacifiCorpID, OR, UT, WY▽60% CO2 emissions2030
PSEGNJ▽13 million tons CO2 emissions2030
Puget Sound EnergyWACarbon neutral2030
Southern California EdisonCA△60% Renewable energy2030
Southern Company AL, GA, MS▽50% CO2 emissions2030
Tennessee Valley AuthorityTN▽70% CO2 emissions2030
Vistra (TXU Energy Retail)TX▽60% CO2 emissions2030
WEC EnergyWI▽40% CO2 emissions2030
Xcel EnergyCO, MN, ND, NM, SD▽80% CO2 emissions2030
AvangridCT, MECarbon neutral2035
Salt River ProjectAZ▽65% Carbon intensity, ▽30% CO2 emissions2035
Tucson Electric PowerAZ▽80% CO2 emissions, △70% Renewable energy2035

 

It’s also important to note that carbon emission reductions are not equal across the board.

Reduction is traditionally based on a base-year measurement (usually 2000 or 2005) that changes for each utility, and a small reduction at a major energy producer can be more impactful than 100% clean energy at a small local utility.

U.S. Utility Decarbonization Targets 2040 and Beyond

From 2040 and beyond, the decarbonization efforts become more ambitious.

In line with many states and the federal government making sweeping clean energy commitments, most of the utility companies with decarbonization targets from 2040 to 2050 are aimed at either carbon neutrality or significant reductions.

For some companies these are their first and only targets, while others are building on smaller goals from earlier years. In the case of the few utility companies marked *N/A, a decarbonization target goal couldn’t be found.

 

EntityState (Largest Provider)Decarbonization GoalTarget Year
AlliantIA, WICarbon neutral2050
AmerenIL, MO▽85% CO2 emissions2040
AmerenIL, MOCarbon neutral2050
American Electric PowerAR, KY, LA, MI, OK, OH, VA, WV▽80% CO2 emissions2050
Arizona Public ServiceAZ△100% Clean electricity2050
Avista CorpID, WA△100% Clean electricity2045
Black HillsSD, WY▽70% GHG emissions2040
City of Colorado SpringsCO▽90% CO2 emissions2040
City of San AntonioTX▽80% CO2 emissions2040
City of San AntonioTXCarbon neutral2050
Cleco PowerLAN/AN/A
CMS EnergyMICarbon neutral, △90% Clean electricity2040
Consolidated EdisonNY△100% Clean electricity2040
Dominion EnergyNC, SC, VACarbon neutral2050
DTE Electric CompanyMICarbon neutral2050
Duke EnergyFL, IN, NC, OH, SCCarbon neutral2050
Emera (Tampa Electric)FL▽80% CO2 emissions2040
Emera (Tampa Electric)FLCarbon neutral2050
ENMAX (Versant Power)MEN/AN/A
EntergyAR, LA, MSCarbon neutral2050
EvergyKS, MO▽80% CO2 emissions2050
FirstEnergyMD, NJ, OH, PACarbon neutral2050
Hawaiian Electric IndustriesHICarbon neutral, △100% Renewable energy2045
Idaho PowerID△100% Clean electricity2045
Lincoln Electric SystemNECarbon neutral2040
Long Island Power AuthorityNY▽85% GHG emissions2050
MidAmerican EnergyIA, IL△100% Renewable energyN/A
National GridMA, NY, RI▽90% GHG emissions2040
National GridMA, NY, RICarbon neutral2050
Nebraska Public Power DistrictNEN/AN/A
NorthWestern EnergyMT, SD▽90% Carbon intensity2045
NRGTXCarbon neutral2050
NV EnergyNV△100% Clean electricity2050
Omaha Public Power DistrictNECarbon neutral2050
Pacific Gas & ElectricCA△100% Clean electricity2045
PacifiCorpID, OR, UT, WY▽80% CO2 emissions2050
PNM ResourcesNM▽100% CO2 emissions2040
Portland General ElectricORCarbon neutral2040
PPLKY, PA▽70% CO2 emissions2040
PPLKY, PA▽80% CO2 emissions2050
PSEGNJ▽80% CO2 emissions2046
PSEGNJCarbon neutral2050
PUD 1 of Snohomish CountyWAN/AN/A
Puget Sound EnergyWA△100% Clean electricity2045
Salt River ProjectAZ▽90% Carbon intensity2050
SempraCA△100% Clean electricity2045
Southern California EdisonCA△100% Clean electricity2045
Southern CompanyAL, GA, MSCarbon neutral2050
Unitil Energy SystemsNHN/AN/A
Vistra (TXU Energy Retail)TXCarbon neutral2050
WEC EnergyWI▽80% CO2 emissions2050
Xcel EnergyCO, MN, ND, NM, SDCarbon neutral2050

 

While the targets set above are significant, they are also a long time away from being met. With pressure to decarbonize increasing across the board, utility companies may need to reassess the impact or timeliness of their decarbonization targets.

The National Public Utilities Council is the go-to resource for all things decarbonization in the utilities industry. Learn more.