Utilities’ Global Warming Strategies Get Mixed Grades

By Published On: March 24, 2006

A newly issued report on climate change, unlike many reports on the subject, looks at both the good news and the bad news. The March 21 Ceres investor coalition report analyzed 100 leading companies, including nearly 20 utilities, giving credit to companies with a sustained commitment to controlling greenhouse gas emissions. It gave kudos to those firms that disclosed data and strategies, supported regulatory actions and practical, near-term steps to find long-term solutions to global warming. The findings were also wrapped in a gubernatorial political campaign. “I commend the companies that have willingly accepted the risks and opportunities that climate change presents,” stated State Treasurer Phil Angelides, who is running for governor. Pacific Gas & Electric, Calpine and Edison Internaltional are considered fairly progressive utilities, according to the Ceres climate change report. PG&E and Calpine received scores of 55 and 54, respectively, out of a top grade of 100. They also ranked fifth and six among the 19 listed U.S. utilities. PG&E was said to produce far less CO2 than equivalently sized utilities. Calpine’s geothermal plants and efficient power plants were touted. Edison received a score of 51 and was number eight on the list. It standing was raised by subsidiary Edison Mission Energy’s proposed $1 billion 500 MW power project expected to be built with BP. The plant will use hydrogen cracked from petroleum coke produced at the adjacent refinery, with CO2 pollution trapped and ideally stored in adjacent coastal underground sites (Circuit, Feb. 17, 2006). Sempra was considered a “laggard” company in the report addressing growing financial risks and opportunities from climate change. Building a new conventional coal plant fits in with ‘business as usual’ thinking. But the report asks what will happen to these facilities in five or 10 years, when they’re still not fully depreciated and facing carbon emission constraints.

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