New research suggests power companies are dragging their feet when it comes to embracing green energy sources like wind and solar.
According to the study, only one in 10 energy suppliers globally have prioritized renewables over fossil fuels.
Those who are spending on greener energy also continue to invest in high-carbon coal and natural gas.
The lead researcher says the slow spread undermines global efforts to tackle climate change.
In countries like the UK and across Europe, renewable energy has captured a significant share of the market, with 40% of UK electricity coming from wind and solar last year.
But while green energy has exploded around the world in recent years, many of the new wind and solar plants have been built by independent producers.
According to this new study, large-scale utility companies, including many state and city enterprises, have been much slower to go green.
The research looked at more than 3,000 power companies around the world and used machine learning techniques to analyze their businesses over the past two decades.
The study found that only 10% of companies have expanded their energy production from renewable sources faster than their gas or coal capacity.
Of this small percentage that spent the most on renewables, many continued to invest in fossil fuels, albeit at a lower rate.
The vast majority of companies, according to the author, have just sat on the fence.
“If you look at all utilities, and what the dominant behavior is, it is that they are not doing much with fossil fuels and renewable energy,” said Galina Alova, of the Smith School of Enterprise and the Environment at the University of Oxford. .
“So they could do something with other fuels like hydroelectricity or nuclear power, but they’re not switching to renewables or increasing the capacity of fossil fuels.”
The author states that many of these types of services are government-owned and may have invested in their energy portfolios many years ago.
The overall conclusion of the analysis, however, is that utility companies are “hindering” the global transition to renewable energy.
“Companies are still increasing their fossil fuel based capacity,” Galina Alova told BBC News.
“So utilities are still dominating the global fossil fuel business. And I’m also finding that a pretty significant share of the utilities-owned fossil fuel-based capacity has been added over the past decade, which means that it’s pretty much a resource. new.
“But in order to achieve the goals of the Paris climate agreement, they need to be withdrawn early or they will need carbon capture and storage because otherwise they are still here to stay for decades.”
He says inertia in the electricity sector is a major cause of the slow transition.
But news about energy companies doesn’t always capture the complexity of their investments.
“Renewable energies and natural gas often go hand in hand,” said Galina Alova.
“Companies often choose both in parallel. So it may only be in media reports that we’re getting this picture of investing in renewable energy, but less coverage on continued gas investments.
“So it’s not about greenwashing. It’s just that this parallel investment in gas dilutes the shift to renewable energy. That’s the key issue.”
The study was published in the journal Nature Energy.
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