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Utilities Sector and the Shift to Renewables Investment: Are They Keeping Up?

utilities sector renewables investment

The global push towards renewable energy is undeniable. With the COP28 commitment to triple renewable energy capacity by 2030, the spotlight falls heavily on the utilities sector. As the traditional providers of our electricity, utilities have a crucial role to play in transitioning from fossil fuels to clean energy sources. But are they keeping up with the pace of change?

To answer this question, let's first look at the current state of affairs. Research reveals a stark contrast between developed and emerging markets. Developed market utilities have made significant strides, phasing down coal-fired capacity by over 35% and increasing renewable energy capacity by over 95% between 2015 and 2022. However, emerging market utilities, driven by rising energy demands, have increased their coal-fired capacity by over 45% in the same period, although they have also tripled their renewable capacity.

This highlights the complex challenges faced by emerging markets, where balancing economic development with climate action requires careful consideration. Nevertheless, the global trajectory is clear: the future belongs to renewable energy. And utilities, regardless of their location, need to accelerate their transition to remain relevant and contribute to a sustainable future.

Examining Commitments

Let’s examine the climate targets set by utilities companies. While approximately 35% of developed market utilities have set targets to add renewable capacity or increase the proportion of renewables in their fuel mix by 2030, only 15% of emerging market utilities have done the same. This indicates a significant gap in ambition and highlights the need for stronger commitments from emerging market players.

Several companies are leading the way with ambitious goals. In emerging markets, Tauron Polska Energia aims to increase its renewable capacity more than fivefold by 2030. In developed markets, Iberdrola is looking to double its existing renewable energy capacity to 80 GW by 2030. These examples demonstrate the kind of ambition needed to achieve the COP28 targets and transition to a clean energy future.

Beyond Renewables

The transition goes beyond simply adding renewable energy capacity. Energy storage solutions are critical for grid stability and flexibility, especially with the variable nature of solar and wind power. Recognizing this, companies like ČEZ Group and Engie SA have set ambitious targets for installing electricity storage capacity by 2030. Such investments in grid infrastructure and storage solutions are essential for enabling a smooth and reliable transition to a renewable energy-powered world.

The Road Ahead

While progress has been made, the utilities sector still has a long way to go. To keep up with the COP28 commitments and the global shift towards renewables, utilities need to:

  • Set ambitious targets: Companies need to define clear and ambitious goals for increasing renewable energy capacity and phasing out fossil fuels. These targets should be aligned with the global net-zero emissions pathway and regularly reviewed and updated.

  • Invest in technology and infrastructure: Significant investments are needed in renewable energy technologies, grid modernization, and energy storage solutions. Collaboration with technology providers and research institutions can accelerate innovation and deployment.

  • Engage with stakeholders: Utilities need to actively engage with communities, regulators, and investors to build trust and support for the transition. Transparency and open communication are crucial for addressing concerns and ensuring a just and equitable transition.

Investors can play a critical role in supporting and accelerating the utilities sector's transition to renewable energy. By engaging with utilities companies, advocating for ambitious targets, and directing investments towards sustainable solutions, investors can contribute to a greener future while also potentially generating attractive returns.

If you’d like to learn more about the tools that help investors identify investment risks and opportunities arising from sustainability, you can learn more at and 

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