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Utilities Are Slowing Down the Clean Energy Transition

A new study says most owners are standing pat in using fossil fuels even as the price of renewables declines.

Emissions rise from cooling towers at a coal-fired power station in Tongling, China.
Emissions rise from cooling towers at a coal-fired power station in Tongling, China.Photographer: Qilai Shen/Bloomberg

Even as the world has added a record amount of new renewable power, utilities globally have moved too slowly to transition away from fossil fuels to generate electricity, according to a study published today in Nature Energy.

Between 2001 and 2018, only about 10% of the more than 3,000 utilities studied prioritized renewable energy over fossil fuels. That accounted for 55 gigawatts of new energy-generating capacity, largely wind. Another 14% of the utilities put more emphasis on coal and natural gas over renewables. And the rest essentially maintained the status quo—they didn’t show a net change in their fossil-fuel generation or renewable power assets.