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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

Amy Harder, author of Generate
Aug 16, 2019 - Energy & Environment

As wind and solar energy grow, so do their challenges

Data: WoodMac; Chart: Axios Visuals

Costs for wind and solar electricity have plummeted in the U.S. and around the world, driving incredible growth in these cleaner sources of energy and helping combat climate change.

But, but, but: The costs associated with the variability of wind and solar — it’s not always windy or sunny — are growing as states, progressive politicians and corporations push for rapid increases in these resources to levels much greater than what we have today.

Amy Harder, author of Generate
Dec 14, 2020 - Energy & Environment
Column / Harder Line

Climate change boosts support for divisive tech

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Julian Brave NoiseCat, an expert at a progressive think tank, doesn’t like nuclear power, but he’s willing to support it because of climate change.

Why he matters: NoiseCat personifies a shift in mindset among individuals, corporations and governments that’s set to accelerate under President-elect Joe Biden: The urgency of climate change is compelling support for controversial technologies.

Amy Harder, author of Generate
Updated Aug 27, 2018 - Energy & Environment
Column / Harder Line

Putting Elon Musk’s Tesla into climate change perspective

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Elon Musk and Tesla offer a gripping corporate tale and coveted electric cars, but when it comes to climate change, they are a rather minor subplot.

Why it matters: Numerous other factors and technologies influence whether electric cars are actually green. And no matter how green they are, they’re still just one, relatively small part of a many-sided, global problem.