Only one in 10 utility firms prioritise renewable electricity – global study

Only one in 10 of the world’s electric utility companies are prioritising investment in clean renewable energy over growing their capacity of fossil fuel power plants, according to research from the University of Oxford.

The study of more than 3,000 utilities found most remain heavily invested in fossil fuels despite international efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and some are actively expanding their portfolio of polluting power plants.

The majority of the utility companies, many of which are state owned, have made little change to their generation portfolio in recent years.

Only 10% of the companies in the study, published in the research journal Nature Energy, are expanding their renewable energy capacity at a faster rate than their gas- or coal-fired capacity.

The report found 10% of utilities were favouring growth in gas-fired power plants. This cluster is dominated by US utilities, eager to take advantage of the country’s shale gas reserves, followed by Russia and Germany.

Only 2% of utilities are actively growing their coal-fired power capacity ahead of renewables or gas. This cluster is dominated by Chinese utilities – which alone contributed more than 60% of coal-focused companies – followed by India and Vietnam.

The report found the majority of companies prioritising renewable energy were clustered in Europe. Many of the industry’s biggest players are investing in low-carbon energy and green technologies to replace their ageing fossil fuel power plants.

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