decarbonizationMuch effort is being devoted to decarbonizing the energy sector quickly, efficiently, and economically—while still being able to provide affordable and reliable energy. In OurEnergyPolicy’s September 30, 2020, webinar, Paula Gold-Williams (President and CEO of CPS Energy) and Gil Quiniones (President and CEO of the New York Power Authority [NYPA]), gave their perspectives, as heads of two of the largest utilities in the country, on driving decarbonization while not undermining reliability.

Both CPS Energy and NYPA are striving to meet the goal of becoming carbon neutral by 2050, an objective that is in line with various existing and potential climate plans at the state, federal, and global level. The board of San Antonio-based CPS Energy, which provides both natural gas and electricity, has endorsed a roadmap that will bring the utility in line with the Paris climate goals. NYPA, which Quiniones said is “the backbone of the New York State power system” and the nation’s largest state electricity utility, is working to adjust its operations in accordance with New York’s recently passed Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act. Utilities across the country are following suit as net zero requirements become more common.

However, achieving these goals may prove more difficult than setting them. Quiniones, Gold-Williams, and moderator Melanie Kenderdine of the Energy Futures Initiative, explained that existing forms of carbon-free energy cannot meet existing demand. Meeting decarbonization goals will require investing in research and development for technological advances and relying on natural gas (at least temporarily) to assure reliability of the existing power system. Technologies such as carbon capture utilization and sequestration, hydrogen, geothermal power, and advanced nuclear power may all have a role to play but are not yet ready to be reliably deployed at scale. Solar, wind, and battery storage, cannot support the grid on their own due to intermittent weather and capacity issues.

We encourage you to view the event recording below and to weigh in with your thoughts and feedback.