Nine out of 10 electricity companies drag feet on renewable investment

3rd September 2020

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Paul Smale

Only one in 10 energy suppliers across the world are prioritising renewable over fossil fuels, according to latest research.

The study by the University of Oxford's Smith School of Enterprise and the Environment, looked at more than 3,300 electricity companies worldwide and their investment strategies in the past two decades.

Even the 10% of companies which expanded their renewables faster than their gas and coal-fired capacity continued to invest in fossil fuels albeit at a slower rate, according to the study published in Nature Energy. Some 57% of the most renewable-orientated companies continued to invest in more gas or coal capacity and nearly 80% expanded their gas portfolios over the period, at an average 5%, while 35% grew their coal capacity, at a slower 1% rate.

Out of the 10% of companies that prioritised gas growth over renewables or coal, a third are based in the USA, followed by 8% from Russia and 7% from Germany.

More than 75% of all analysed utilities, owning close to 50% of total capacity — could be grouped into a passive category, meaning they showed growth in neither renewables nor fossil fuels and instead simply managed their existing portfolios.

These companies are dominated by European utilities, which made up more than two-fifths, and over 70% of the total are state-owned.

Galina Alova, the study's author and a researcher at the smith School, warned that utilities may have locked in emissions-intensive power plants well into the future.

A large share of these assets is far from its retirement age, with a third being added in the last ten years, she said. Unless retired early and resulting in asset stranding, these power plants are here to stay for decades.


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