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Nation's Largest Utility Leaves US Chamber of Commerce — Because of Climate Change?

John Rowe, Exelon CEO, said yesterday that climate change legislation is an urgent issue. At the same time, he announced that the nation’s largest utility would not be renewing its membership with the US Chamber of Commerce because of the Chamber of Commerce’s opposition to climate legislation.


Rowe was addressing utility industry leaders, regulators and policymakers at the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy’s national conference in Chicago when presenting on these issues yesterday. Rowe is concerned about lack of climate legislation for both economic and environmental reasons. This follows similar actions by other leading utilities — Pacific Gas & Electric and PNM Resources.

Exelon Afraid of the EPA

One of Rowe’s major concerns: if legislation doesn’t deal with climate change, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will. First, Rowe stated: “The carbon-based free lunch is over. But while we can’t fix our climate problems for free, the price signal sent through a cap-and-trade system will drive low-carbon investments in the most inexpensive and efficient way possible.” Further on he got into his concerns regarding EPA regulation. “Inaction on climate is not an option. If Congress does not act, the EPA will, and the result will be more arbitrary, more expensive, and more uncertain for investors and the industry than a reasonable, market-based legislative solution.”

An Environmental and Climate Change Leader

Exelon seems genuinely concerned about the environment as well, however. It is leading the way on energy efficiency. Currently, some of Exelon’s utilities have a plan to “help customers reduce their energy use by more than 3.7 million megawatt hours and cut peak load by 388 megawatts” within five years. Its programs place it third in the nation in customer energy savings.

By 2020, the company also plans to “reduce, offset or displace more than 15 million metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions” each year.

Exelon isn’t just now showing up at the green table. It has shown leadership in energy efficiency and climate change for years. From 2001 to 2008, it reduced its greenhouse gas emissions by 35%. Rowe, “the industry’s longest-serving chief executive,” has been the CEO of Exelon for nearly 26 years. He has been a climate change leader at least since 1992, when he testified to Congress about the potential effects of carbon emissions. He is a national leader in the field, as co-chair of the National Commission on Energy Policy and former chair of the Edison Electric Institute and the Nuclear Energy Institute.

Many people assume that Exelon is being so climate friendly because the proposed climate bill looks to be very utility-friendly. Additionally, Exelon is a big nuclear power utility. As they say, business follows the green, (meaning money, of course).

Whatever Rowe and Exelon’s motives are, they are making a huge step in the climate change arena this week. As an extremely influential leader in the energy industry, their message to the Chamber of Commerce and Congress is clear. They want to see a climate bill passed soon! Will Congress make it happen?

Related Articles:

1) Utilities Divided as Exelon Quits Chamber Over Climate Change

2) 100s of Investors (with $13 Trillion) Demand Strong Climate Deal in Copenhagen

via Treehugger & Exelon

Image Credit 1 (Exelon Nuclear Power Plant): i♥luv♥cocacola via flickr under a Creative Commons license

Image Credit 2 (Exelon Community Energy Wind Farm): Jeff Kubina via flickr under a Creative Commons license

Image Credit 3 (Exelon Community Energy Wind Farm): Jeff Kubina via flickr under a Creative Commons license

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