Power companies 'failing to meet climate challenge'

Posted: 13 January 2005

The power sector, the biggest single contributor to climate change, is failing to act responsibly to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions, says a leading conservation agency.

Delta Power Station, fueled by coal, Mount Piper, New South Wales, Australia© WWF-Canon / Adam Oswell
The report Ranking Power, published by WWF shows how companies have failed to invest in renewable and efficient energy to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions. Almost two-thirds of power companies received a ranking of less than 1 out of 10 for their response to global warming, and more than 90 per cent rank less than 3.1.

The report was released at the launch of WWF's new PowerSwitch! campaign, which aims to achieve a carbon-free power sector by 2050 in industrialized countries and to trigger a major switch from coal to clean energy in developing countries in that time.

"The power sector is the biggest single polluter of greenhouse gases, responsible for 37 per cent of CO2 emissions from the burning of fossil fuels," said Jennifer Morgan, Director WWF Climate Change Programme. "However, the companies we analysed are completely unprepared for fundamental change in the way they invest in clean and efficient energy. If they keep polluting our atmosphere by burning carbon rich coal, the window of opportunity to avoid a global warming crisis will soon be closed."

Ranking Power analyzes 72 of the world's leading power companies, which amongst them produce two thirds of all electricity generated in OECD countries and Russia. It ranks them in terms of their use, sale and investment in renewable energy and highly efficient natural gas. Globally, few companies ranked well on either measure. Among American firms, 24 per cent racked up a cumulative score of zero out of a possible score of ten; 76 per cent came in below one.

European companies hardly perform any better, but come out best in the study. No European company scored 0 while the best performing company was Iberdrola of Spain, with 4.3 points. However, only one fifth of the European companies surveyed had a share of renewable energy in their fuel mix greater than 2 per cent. In Japan and Australia the use of renewable fuel is extremely limited. The fuel mix in these countries is often dominated by lignite coal, one of the dirtiest and most carbon rich fuels of all.

According to WWF, the power sector's contribution to climate change threatens the very development that electricity promotes. Unless action is taken now, warns the conservation agency, it will put millions of people at risk from rising sea levels, loss of fresh water, extreme weather and disease.

  • Emissions from six upstate New York coal fired power plants, including the state's two largest polluting power plants, will be slashed under two agreements reached January 11, 2005, to settle lawsuits brought against the power companies by the state of New York. Announcing the settlements, New York Governor George Pataki, a Republican, and Attorney General Eliot Spitzer, a Democrat, said that in total they represent the largest reduction in air pollution levels ever attained through settlement in New York. "These historic agreements will dramatically enhance air quality in New York, improve public health and help preserve the state's greatest natural treasure, the Adirondack Park," Pataki said...read more about this at: Environment News Service.

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    Read the report, Ranking Power