Washington Stalls As Utility CEOs Move Aggressively into Renewables

From Michigan to Texas to California, CEOs of major energy companies are acting faster than ever to move their businesses into renewables, saying a raft of coal plant closures and the continuing fall in costs for wind and solar are making them change course despite congressional inaction in Washington to cut emissions, according to an E&E News report.

This confirms what industry leaders have known and understood for years about the clean energy transition—which is conveyed in this report. Speaking this spring at CERAWeek by IHS Markit in Houston, the chief executives of CMS Energy Corp., Vistra Energy Corp., NRG Energy Inc., and Edison International all voiced optimism that market and technology trends will favor renewable energy investments over coal and fossil fuels, and that there’s no going back.

Patti Poppe, the CEO of Michigan-based CMS Energy Corp. said: “While they’re discussing it, thinking about it, arguing about it in Washington, D.C., I can speak for our team: In Michigan, we’re going to be doing what it takes. There’s no room, in my opinion, for coal-fueled generation in a clean and lean future.”

Poppe’s utility, like others nationwide, is taking a lead on renewables because it’s the economically smart thing to do. CMS plans to cut its emissions 90% by 2040 compared with 2005 levels; it closed down 1 Gigawatt of coal-fired generation in 2016 alone.

Similarly, Vistra Energy in Texas shuttered 4 Gigawatts of coal-powered generation last year and has confirmed it will unplug another 2 Gigawatts in Illinois. Vistra’s CEO Curt Morgan said he loves coal-fired generation but sees economic and climate headwinds, and expects a rash of U.S. coal plant closures over the next two decades. “I think gas will be the companion technology along with renewables,” Morgan said.

In the words of NRG’s CEO Mauricio Gutierrez, “Perhaps one of the catalysts is just the vacuum of, you know, things coming from Washington.” Which is a nice way of saying: Follow the money today, not the politics of yesterday.

What We’re Reading: “As DC Dawdles, CEOs Shift Power Companies to Green by Edward Klump” published in E&E News

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