Most electric utility customers unaware of their utility’s climate initiatives

With states, corporations, and utilities pledging action on climate change through renewable energy targets and goals, it’s a bit surprising to learn from JD Power’s first every sustainability index that most U.S. electric utility customers currently have very low levels of awareness for the climate sustainability initiatives of their local utilities. The J.D. Power Sustainability Index 2020 was released on Wednesday.

The index is focused on ESG (environmental, social and governance) and J.D. Power used those metrics to evaluate electric utility customer awareness, support, engagement and advocacy for their local utility’s climate sustainability programs and goals. The index applies to the 35 largest U.S. electric utility companies and cities, each serving 500,000 or more residential customers.

Key findings of the 2020 index:

  • Consumer awareness and engagement with utility climate initiatives very low: The overall sustainability scores for electric utilities evaluated in the study, which are based on consumer awareness, support, engagement and advocacy for their local utility’s climate initiatives, range from a high of 32 to a low of 19 on a 100-point scale.
  • Most concerned cities: Utility customers in New York City (Con Edison), Los Angeles (Los Angeles Department of Water & Power) and Portland, Ore., (Portland General Electric) have the highest levels of concern regarding climate change.
  • Climate change skeptics: Wyoming and Alabama have the largest percentages of climate change skeptics, with 15% and 11% of respondents, respectively, responding that “there is no climate change.”
  • Business customers more engaged in sustainability than residential customers: On average, business utility customers are more aware and supportive of their local utility’s climate sustainability initiatives than residential customers.
  • Highest-scoring utilities: NextEra Energy and Sacramento Municipal Utility District have the highest scores in 2020 with a score of 32 (on a 100-point scale).

The index is based on responses from more than 34,000 business and residential electric utility customers and was fielded from January through May 2020. Following is the full list of electric utility companies and cities that are evaluated, along with their index scores:

  Utility                                                            Score

NextEra Energy 32
Sacramento Municipal Utility District 32
Con Edison 29
CPS Energy 29
DTE Energy 29
Edison International 29
Portland General Electric 29
Puget Energy 29
Southern Company 29
Xcel Energy 29
L. A. Dept. of Water & Power 28
Sempra Energy 28
CMS Energy 27
Duke Energy 27
Emera 27
Pacific Gas and Electric 27
Pinnacle West 27
Salt River Project 27
Berkshire Hathaway Energy 26
Entergy 26
Exelon 26
Ameren 25
Dominion 25
OGE Energy Corp. 25
National Grid 24
PPL Corporation 24
Eversource 23
WEC Energy Group 23
AEP 22
Evergy 22
Alliant Energy 21
Duquesne Light 20
FirstEnergy 20
Avangrid 19

“Consumer awareness and support for the climate sustainability initiatives of their local electric utilities is low,” said Andrew Heath, senior director of utilities intelligence at J.D. Power. “Utilities need to address awareness if they hope to achieve the clean energy goals they’ve put in place for the next few decades. These efforts are going to cost money and will require support from rate payers and citizens. Without the support of their customers and other stakeholders, utilities may struggle to achieve their goals.”

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