Despite tremendous political uncertainty in North America, driven by the United States’ announcement to pull out of the Paris Climate Agreement and its attendant policy shifts, utilities are nevertheless increasing their investments in green and renewable energy, according to new research published this month by Capgemini.
Leading global consulting firm Capgemini published the 19th edition of its Energy Markets Observatory report, expanding for the first time beyond Europe to make it the inaugural World Energy Markets Observatory 2017 (WEMO) report. The study’s primary conclusion “reveals that progress in the sector’s generation technologies has caused an acceleration in the Energy Transition, while related renewables growth continues to destabilize the wholesale electricity markets and key players.”
However, Capgemini highlighted another aspect of its report which focused directly on North American utilities, finding that utilities there are increasing their investments in green and renewable energy, as well as digital technologies, which have the potential to reduce carbon emissions while providing greater energy choices and lower energy costs.
Of course, when we look at the United States from a birds-eye point of view, we might wonder at what the country can effectively accomplish with a President so hell-bent on undermining the renewable energy industry at every step. However, as we have seen at the latest COP23 climate conference in Bonn, Germany, the ‘We Are Still In’ coalition of US states, cities, and other non-state actors are intent on remaining committed to the Paris Climate Agreement, even if their President does not.
According to Capgemini, however, utilities are similarly focused on investing in clean and renewable energy, with the power and utilities sector increasing its efficiency program spending by almost three times since 2007, from $2.2 billion to $6.3 billion in 2015, while 2016 was a record year with renewable energy capacity additions in excess of 22 GW (gigawatts).
“The North American utilities market is exposed to several significant, global variables in play — those not only impact how we consume and source energy in the near-term, they ultimately factor into our ability to achieve success during this time of transition,” said Bart Thielbar, Vice President, North America Utilities Practice Lead, Capgemini. “The US energy market has shown growth in renewable energy projects and an increase in new technology investments — which shows a focus on building a successful future, despite uncertainties in today’s climate.
However, Capgemini raised concerns that coal may soon become the leading source of electricity generation in North America and might even manage to hold on to that top spot until 2032 — if the Clean Power Plan is not approved, or finds itself being stripped down. Capgemini allows that these impacts may be offset somewhat by the natural course of political compromise that is part and parcel of American politics, or by the work of State governments when compared against the Federal government.