The Dirty Truth: Utilities Delaying Clean Energy Transition


Jessica King,

WASHINGTON, D.C.Today, the Sierra Club launched a new version of their groundbreaking report and interactive tool, The Dirty Truth About Climate Pledges. The report investigates how utilities are delaying the transition to clean energy despite their climate commitments and assigns grades to major utilities based on three primary criteria: plans to retire polluting coal plants, whether they plan to build new gas power plants, and the scale of their investment in clean energy. 

According to the report, co-authored by Dr. Leah Stokes of the University of California, Santa Barbara, a majority of the 50 parent companies most invested in fossil fuels are not on track to achieve President Biden’s goal of 80 percent clean electricity by 2030. 37 of the 50 parent companies studied received a D or an F grade, and nearly half of the utilities studied made no progress or scored worse than in Sierra Club’s first Dirty Truth report released in early 2021. Utilities with climate pledges also score poorly due to a lack of firm action plans to transition to clean energy, indicating utilities’ climate pledges amount to little more than greenwashing.  

In an updated interactive website, users can look up their utility’s grade, view details of the utility’s plans, and analyze what progress–if any–the utility has made toward transitioning to clean energy over the last year and a half. This tool brings together disparate data sets to increase transparency in utility plans and give everyone, from customers to policymakers, the tools they need to see if utilities are taking action to address the climate crisis or wasting precious time by investing in fossil fuels. 

“More than a year after the Sierra Club’s inaugural Dirty Truth Report exposed utility greenwashing through climate pledges, the updated report reveals the industry has made almost no changes.  The ‘business as usual’ approach, which is forcing people around the country to struggle with grid reliability crises, blackouts, energy price spikes, and extreme weather events isn’t working. We desperately need our utility companies to stop greenwashing and sowing climate denial and get serious about clean energy and real climate leadership” Sierra Club Senior Director of Energy Campaigns Holly Bender said. 

Since the first Dirty Truth Report exposed many utilities’ greenwashing claims and climate inaction, calls for a rapid transition to clean energy have only grown louder and transitioning to clean energy has only grown easier. The Inflation Reduction Act’s nearly $370 billion investment in energy and programs to address climate change will make it easier for them to deploy clean energy and increase energy affordability for customers.

“The clean energy provisions in the IRA have the potential to create millions of jobs, avoid thousands of pollution-related deaths, and reduce energy burdens for households across the country,” Bender said. “Utilities can no longer claim that the cost of giving up fossil fuels is too expensive, and we cannot afford to allow them to continue to drag their feet.”

About the Sierra Club

The Sierra Club is America’s largest and most influential grassroots environmental organization, with millions of 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