Incentivizing Big Oil to Transition to a Clean Energy Future


It has been a busy year working to move the energy industry towards sustainability, but 2016 marks our most successful year yet.

by Amelia Timbers, Manager, Energy Program

This year, the Energy Program filed 27 shareholder resolutions and negotiated agreements with nine companies to move the extraction and utility industries to more quickly transition toward a clean energy economy. In addition to our important work on carbon asset risk and hydraulic fracturing, we led the investment community with an innovative clean energy resolution at ExxonMobil and Chevron. Called “Carbon Asset Transition” or CAT, the resolution recommends a simple change: that companies report to shareholders all energy resources – including geothermal, biofuels, wind, and solar – by category, in a single energy unit called BTUs. This reporting change allows the market to fully value clean energy, not just barrels of oil, aligning market incentives with the imperative for clean energy. The goal is to provide a path for Big Oil to become truly diversified and to transition to competitive energy companies that can thrive in a carbon-constrained future.

We also led first-ever filings in the utility sector with carbon asset risk resolutions at  Great Plains Energy, American Electric Power, FirstEnergy, and Southern Company, addressing the growing risk that the companies’ coal assets could become stranded. The Great Plains and American Electric Power resolutions were withdrawn in exchange for landmark agreements, and the FirstEnergy and Southern Company resolutions received 31% and 29% shareholder support, respectively—a clear call for these companies to move away from coal.

In response to the withdrawal, American Electric Power published a strong carbon asset risk report, available on its website now, making major commitments to ramp up renewable energy adoption. As You Sow also filed, in partnership with other investors, a resolution pushing Duke Energy to modernize its business. Shortly after Duke and investors reached an agreement in exchange for withdrawal, it announced significant increases in its renewable energy adoption. As You Sow has been working with Duke Energy since 2010, encouraging the company to move away from coal and toward clean energy sources.

We also continued to pressure fracking companies, including ExxonMobil and Chevron, to improve their best management practices and transparency, extending this work to mining and gas giant Freeport McMoRan, which must provide far better reporting to shareholders on how it is reducing and preventing impacts of its urban fracking operations on Los Angeles communities. It has been a busy year working to move the energy industry towards sustainability, but 2016 marks our most successful year yet.