Image: GE Renewables

New Jersey’s largest energy company, PSEG, recently announced that it will go carbon-free by 2050 after 116 years of relying on fossil fuels to generate energy. As CNN reported, the $30 billion utility provider is on track to slash carbon emissions by 80% by 2046, compared with 2005 levels. And PSEG, which also serves more than a million customers on Long Island, is setting an ambitious goal of getting down to net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.

How?: PSEG Chairman, President and CEO Ralph Izzo said in a letter to stakeholders that there’s “no magic bullet that can get us to a 100 percent carbon-free future,” but that coal and gas-fired plants will not be the answer. The energy company will also “continue to explore opportunities in solar, offshore wind and emerging technologies,” along with energy efficiency resources. Additionally, starting next year PSEG will issue an annual report on sustainability and climate using the Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures framework.

Going Further: A friction point that has existed for utilities coming under public pressure to reach 100% renewable energy has been the fact that they don’t want stranded assets–such as profitable fossil fuel plants that they have on their books. This commitment is significant because PSEG has vowed to sell “all remaining interests in coal-fired power plants, and has no plans to build or acquire new fossil-fueled generation” though it will keep its nuclear assets.

 Why This Matters:  The state of New Jersey has made a commitment to achieving 100% clean energy utilization by 2050 and along with the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico nine states have now set a goal to move away from energy sources that generate greenhouse gases. However utilities are not always on board with the clean energy goals made by states and cities and as Utility Drive explained, where utilities don’t get involved, economic growth is lost and utilities lose customers to nontraditional electricity providers–like community solar. But when they are involved, collaboration leads to innovation that helps localities meet their goals more quickly and cost-effectively. Xcel Energy was the first major utility to commit last year to go carbon-free and hopefully, this momentum will help set the standard for the role that utilities will play in our clean energy future–as friend, not foe.

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