Renewables now ‘mainstream’ business for US utilities, says report



NV Energy, Xcel, PG&E, Sempra and Edison International have topped a new index ranking US investor-owned utilities on their deployment of clean energy.

According the report, the country’s 32 largest investor-owned utility companies, which account for nearly 70% of US retail electricity sales, now source on average 5% of their power from renewable sources.

The report by non-profit sustainability body CERES, and market research firm, Clean Edge, is the first of its kind to rank US utilities on their renewable energy sales and energy efficiency savings.

It placed Nevada’s NV Energy top of the list of utilities for clean energy deployment, with renewables representing 21.08% of its sales in 2012.

After that Xcel, PG&E, Sempra and Edison International saw renewables account for 18.11%, 16.87%, 16.86% and 16.67% of the sales respectively.

Bryce Yonker, who led on the report for Clean Edge, said: “This report is the first of its kind to see where the utility marketplace has come in terms of renewable energy deployment. Renewable energy and energy efficiency are really becoming mainstream in the US; the idea that it’s a small piece of the pie still is simply becoming less and less true.”

Yonker said that the deployment of renewable energy in the US had been rapid, enjoying at CAGR of 20% between 2003 and 2012 and echoing the “breakneck” trajectories of other now-ubiquitous tech sectors such as computers and telecoms. Solar has grown at 40%.

“The marketplace is changing and the utilities are seeing that, and they’re shifting their business models to accommodate how they can bring renewables and energy efficiency on line.”

The report noted that state policies are a key driver for utility clean energy deployment, with many of the best-performing companies based in states with “aggressive” policy targets. For example, California, which has strong state policies on clean energy, is also home to PG&E, Edison International and Sempra, all of which were in the top five on this measure.

“The report shows there’s a strong correlation between states with robust energy efficiency and renewable energy policies and the utilities that are delivering these resources effectively to customers,” said Dan Bakal, director of renewable energy programmes at CERES.

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