Utilities Still Catching Up to Public Opinion on Renewable Energy

Renewable energy enjoys broad public support—the utility industry is more skeptical.
September 15, 2018, 5am PDT | James Brasuell | @CasualBrasuell
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Soonthorn Wongsaita

Cities, counties, states, and large corporations are pledging, and in some cases already achieving, 100 percent renewable energy. New market research show that renewable energy is a "public relations juggernaut."

"The rapid spread and evident popularity of the 100 percent [renewable energy] target has created an alarming situation for power utilities," according to an article by David Roberts. "Suffice to say, while there are some visionary utilities in the country, as an industry, they tend to be extremely small-c conservative."

With so many customers demanding to transition to 100 percent renewable energy, Roberts says utilities have reasons for resisting change. "For one thing, most of them don’t believe the technology exists to make 100 percent work reliably; they believe that even with lots of storage, variable renewables will need to be balanced out by 'dispatchable' power plants like natural gas. For another thing, getting to 100 percent quickly would mean lots of 'stranded assets,' i.e., shutting down profitable fossil fuel power plants."

Roberts breaks down the recent market research that shows overwhelming support for renewables from the public, despite the concerns of utilities. A shockingly unified "messaging landscape" emerges, especially considering how many political and media figures still deny that humans cause climate change.

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Published on Friday, September 14, 2018 in Vox
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