Global electricity firms still snubbing clean power

Energy companies from around the world have been assessed in a shock report released this week, which reveals that the power sector is failing to curb CO2 emissions sufficiently.

According to their use of and investment in green power, 72 electric power companies from 18 industrialised countries were assessed by global conservation organisation the WWF.

Findings showed that leading companies from the power sector, the single biggest contributor to greenhouse gas emissions and climate change, were barely investing in renewable power and improving energy efficiency at a time when world leaders have stated that fighting back against climate change must be a global priority (see related story).

With scores ranging from one to 10 for sustainability and energy efficiency, almost two-thirds of the companies assessed scored lower than one, and 90% of the firms scored less than three.

“The power sector is the biggest single polluter of greenhouse gases, responsible for 37% of CO2 emissions from the burning of fossil fuels,” director of the WWF climate change programme Jennifer Morgan stated. “However, the companies analysed are completely unprepared for fundamental change in the way they invest in clean 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.”

To compile the Ranking Power report, WWF scored the performance of leading power companies in terms of their levels of use, sale and investment in the renewable energy and highly efficient natural gas.

The companies analysed produce two-thirds of all electricity generated in the 30 OECD countries and Russia.

Of the US companies, 24% racked up a cumulative score of zero, with 76% coming in below one. European firms performed marginally better than their American cousins, as none of them scored zero and 57% of them scored higher than one.

However, only around 20% of the European countries surveyed had renewable energy contributing towards more than 2% of the total amount of electricity that they produced.

The best performing company was Spain’s Iberdrola, which finished with a total 4.3 points. American firm FPL Group came second with 4.1, and in at third place was ScottishPower from the UK with 3.7 points.

Tying at bottom place with a total score of zero were seven US companies, five Japanese and one Australian.

According to the WWF, the power sector’s contribution to climate change threatens the very development that electricity promotes, and unless action is taken now, millions of people will be put at risk from rising sea levels, loss of fresh water, extreme weather occurrences and spreading disease (see related story).

But despite this, the environmental organisation stated that three quarters of the companies questioned were not prepared to disclose any information about their strategies to tackle global warming.

“They fail to recognise the farm their inaction poses to millions around the planet,” Ms Morgan said. “These companies lack the accountability needed to win public trust and are vulnerable to charges of arrogance.”

In response to the findings of the survey, WWF has launched a campaign, PowerSwitch!, which will aim to clean up the power sector and build a movement of activists around the world to urge companies and governments to switch to clean, sustainable power sources.

By Jane Kettle

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