The University of Arizona

Greenhouse Gas Reduction Goal Planning Report | CLIMAS

Greenhouse Gas Reduction Goal Planning Report

TitleGreenhouse Gas Reduction Goal Planning Report
Publication TypeReport
Year of Publication2019
AuthorsKnudson, C, Gerlak, AK, McMahan, B

Executive Summary

In 2014, the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) stated that warming of the climate system is unequivocal and that many changes to the system have been unprecedented over decades to millennia. In particular, greenhouse gas(GHG)concentrations have increased, the sea level has risen, the atmosphere and ocean have warmed, and snow and ice amounts have decreased. With each successive IPCC report, the evidence has strengthened that human activity has been the dominant cause of global warming since the mid-20thcentury. In response to theUnited Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change(UNFCCC)Paris Agreement, the US Federal Government established its Nationally Determined Contribution(NDC)in 2015, aiming to put the USon a path to reduce its emissions by 2050 to 80% of 2005 levels. Due to state and federal targets and regulations, along with the decreasing costs of renewables and natural gas, public pressure for carbon reductions, and other factors, utilities in the US have been setting targets to reduce their emissions. Groups such as the Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures(TCFD), the Science-Based Targets Initiative(SBTi), and the Electric Power Research Institute(EPRI) have conducted research and written reports to aid companies in their climate change scenario planning. This report analyzes 24US utilities that have set reduction targets for carbon emissions. We found a significant range of reduction targets across the US utility landscape, with 21 distinct targets for the 24utilities analyzed in this report. The report sorts the utilities’ targets into three categories: low, medium, and high targeted levels of carbon reduction. The anchor among all the targets identified is theUS’s NDCformulation of“80% reductions under 2005 emissions by 2050”. The different baseline dates adopted by utilities makes it challenging to compare the targets. Even comparing two utilities with the same target is difficult, because the size of the reduction needed to go below a previous baseline emissions amount depends on how much the utility has grown in the intervening years. This report also divides the 24 utilities into a four-part typology based on their energy capacity in megawatts (MW), and the percentage of their energy mix that is coal. This gives us four types of utilities: small/low-carbon, small/high-carbon, large/low-carbon, and large/high-carbon. The larger and more high-carbon utilities tend to have low targeted levels of carbon reduction, though the exact formulation of the targets varies across the utilities. The most pronounced pattern among the utilities is that small utilities with low-carbon portfolios tend to have much higher targeted levels of carbon reduction. This report classifiesTucson Electric Power(TEP)as a small/high-carbon utility, characterized by the greatest proportion of low targeted levels of carbon reduction among its members.