Shareholders are encouraging utilities to take stronger steps to address climate change.
As the economic risks of climate change become more urgent, investors have continued to show strong support for shareholder resolutions asking utilities to address carbon pollution.
This year, our Energy program filed resolutions calling for CO2 reduction goals at Southern Company, FirstEnergy, and Great Plains Energy – utilities that have some of the highest levels of coal-fired power and carbon emissions in the country. The resolutions emphasized that companies with significant carbon pollution will likely face increased costs and will quickly have to meet new climate-related air standards. “Renewable energy prices have fallen dramatically, and it’s become a cost effective alternative to coal power,” noted Amelia Timbers, Energy Program Manager.
Shareholders representing $8 billion in shares endorsed our efforts to reduce utility emissions. As renewable energy becomes increasingly more competitive against coal-based power, customers seek to install cost-effective renewables themselves, and more climate change regulations are passed, it is becoming clear to investors that utilities that do not change their approach will lose revenue, and as they must maintain transmission lines that keep the same costs, they may be risky investments.
In the Southwest, our resolution seeking political spending transparency at Pinnacle West (owner of Arizona Public Service, Arizona’s largest utility) received 30.8% of shareholders’ votes. Pinnacle West has been embroiled in widespread controversy over its 2013 lobbying for a law that would thwart solar adoption by putting a surcharge on homeowners installing rooftop solar. “The message from the vote is clear; investors don’t believe that political spending benefits the company, and they want transparency around the company’s political spending activities,” commented Timbers.