Data: Deloitte; Chart: Axios Visuals

Splashy power company pledges to cut emissions to zero by midcentury are going to be very hard to achieve, but hardly impossible, according to a Deloitte analysis released Monday.

Why it matters: Electricity is the second-largest source of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions after transportation.

  • Over the last two years, some of the country's biggest power companies pledged to fully decarbonize their generation over the next few decades.
  • Per Deloitte, 22 investor-owned power companies have goals to be "net zero" or have 100% carbon-free generation by 2050.

The big picture: "There are significant gaps between decarbonization targets and the scheduled fossil fuel capacity retirements and renewable additions, and flexibility requirements needed to achieve full decarbonization," the Deloitte study states. "The math doesn’t yet add up," it adds.

What's next: The firm's "utility decarbonization framework" is broken into three decadelong phases that offer a sequential way to close the "transition gap."

  • The next 10 years see more coal-plant retirements and renewables and storage deployment and innovation, and some carbon capture.
  • Subsequent phases address expanding "smart" homes and "grid interactive" tech in buildings; development of seasonal-scale storage; EV-grid interaction, direct air capture and other approaches.

Yes, but: A suite of circumstances will have to line up right. The report, for instance, details various deployment obstacles around costs, complexity, and development of not-yet-mature tech.The many examples address policy (such as delays and "uncoordinated transmission development" for offshore wind), "mixed" social acceptance for technologies like "smart" homes, and much more.

Go deeper

Ben Geman, author of Generate
Oct 20, 2020 - Energy & Environment

Sizing up China's 2060 plan

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

China's vow to reach carbon neutrality by 2060 is starting to produce some helpful analyses of how the world's largest greenhouse gas emitter might actually get there.

Why it matters: The plan seems to be achievable, in theory, but the numbers around the needed expansion of carbon-free power, industrial fuels and vehicles are pretty wild.

Amy Harder, author of Generate
5 hours ago - Energy & Environment

Climate change goes mainstream in presidential debate

Photo illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios. Photo: Olivier Douliery-Pool/Getty

The most notable part of Thursday’s presidential debate on climate change was the fact it was included as a topic and assumed as a fact.

The big picture: This is the first time in U.S. presidential history that climate change was a featured issue at a debate. It signals how the problem has become part of the fabric of our society. More extreme weather, like the wildfires ravaging Colorado, is pushing the topic to the front-burner.

Finally, a real debate

Photo: Morry Gash/AP

A more disciplined President Trump held back from the rowdy interruptions at tonight's debate in Nashville, while making some assertions so outlandish that Joe Biden chuckled and even closed his eyes. A Trump campaign adviser told Axios: "He finally listened." 

The result: A real debate.