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ORLANDO, FL - This week, Sierra Club released a groundbreaking report and research tool, which grades utilities based on their plans to retire coal plants, stop building new gas plants, and invest in clean energy -- allowing readers to judge each utility’s climate progress and how it compares to what science demands. According to the report, which was co-authored by Dr. Leah Stokes of University of California, Santa Barbara, many of the utilities that made “carbon neutral” pledges received a failing grade because they are not retiring their coal and gas plants fast enough to avoid the worst impacts of the climate crisis.
At the end of 2020, Orlando Utilities Commission (OUC) finalized its Electric Integrated Resource Plan (EIRP) which includes plans to retire the Stanton coal plant in 2025 (Unit 1) and 2027 (Unit 2). OUC plans a rapid and ambitious increase in solar power and battery storage. However, OUC plans a coal-to-gas conversion at each unit. While the coal-to-gas conversion is somewhat minimized, OUC could improve on its “B” grade by changing its plan to moving directly to clean, renewable energy.
“The report’s findings are straightforward: every utility must retire all of their coal plants by 2030, immediately cease building new gas plants or converting coal to gas, and aggressively build out clean energy resources to fill in the gap,” said Susannah Randolph, a representative of the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal Campaign in Florida. “OUC received a “B” grade, which is the best in the Southeast. With that said, there is always room to improve. Other utilities are not taking a pit stop at fracked gas and are going straight to 100% renewable energy and battery storage. We can make the city beautiful into the city renewable with just a little more effort!”
In addition to The Dirty Truth About Utility Climate Pledges report, Sierra Club also launched an interactive website which allows users to look up their utility’s grade, its coal plant retirement schedule (if one exists), its planned gas plant capacity, and its investments in clean energy. The website also includes a national map to help users look up their service area and a digital dashboard for researchers, energy analysts, and media partners to keep track of each utility’s progress over the next decade.
“Just last week, our country renewed its commitment to addressing climate change. Cities across the country are demonstrating the economic feasibility of planning a decarbonized future,” said Raquel Fernandez Makarov, Orlando-based organizer for the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal Campaign in Florida. “Mayor Buddy Dyer and OUC have done more than the average city and utility, but we can realize an energy future - now - that is fossil fuel free. It doesn’t take a report to see that, just look at other leading utilities across the country.”
The report and dashboard sources its information from utilities’ long-term energy plan -- known as an Integrated Resource Plan (IRPs) -- the Energy Information Administration, S&P Global Market Intelligence, and major announcements from the 50 utilities that generate the most electricity from coal and gas. Those 50 worst offenders include investor-owned utilities, power authorities (like the Tennessee Valley Authority), generation and transmission co-ops, and large municipal utilities. In total, it examines plans for 79 operating companies owned by 50 unique parent companies.
About the Sierra Club
The Sierra Club is America’s largest and most influential grassroots environmental organization, with more than 3.5 million members and supporters. In addition to protecting every person's right to get outdoors and access the healing power of nature, the Sierra Club works to promote clean energy, safeguard the health of our communities, protect wildlife, and preserve our remaining wild places through grassroots activism, public education, lobbying, and legal action. For more information, visit www.sierraclub.org.