Greening the Grid – Steps Utilities Can Take

by | Mar 7, 2019

Shelton Stat

52% of Americans believe their electric utility is environmentally responsible (Energy Pulse 2018).

Sustainability Win of the Week

Here’s a refreshing bit of news: when asked “what is the most compelling reason to invest in clean energy technologies, such as renewables and storage,” the number one answer given by utility executives is “consumer demand and sentiment.” The number two answer in Utility Dive’s annual State of the Electric Utility Survey is also encouraging: “sustainability.”

I’m thrilled to see that utilities are listening to what customers have been telling them via our surveys and the polling of countless others. I’m also thrilled to see that many are listening to their moral compass.

We’re seeing a lot of commitments and action on this front as well: one of our clients, Consumers Energy, has committed to being coal-free by 2040 and reducing its carbon emissions by 90% by then as well. This decision was very much driven by a desire to do the right thing for current investors and customers as well as for future generations. Consumers Energy isn’t the only one; many utilities are heading down a renewables path and/or a carbon reduction path because customers demand it, they believe it’s the right thing to do … and they don’t want to see their largest commercial customers bail on them in favor of purchasing wind and solar directly from third parties.

So, there’s a clear business case for continuing to green up the grid, and there’s a clear moral justification. Yet Utility Dive’s survey reveals a fair amount of hand-wringing on the part of utility execs about “uncertainty.” We all hear this same concern expressed by other carbon-intensive companies – there’s no shortage of sound bites from executives asking for some sort of carbon tax to create “certainty.” We also heard the certainty argument from the automotive industry related to CAFE standards. Every senior leader in every organization wants certainty. I get it. I’ve run a company for 28 years and I face anxiety-producing uncertainty every day. Ask any small business owner and they’ll tell you the same thing. That’s business.

From Shelton Group’s viewpoint, though, there are so many things that ARE certain:

  • 86% of Americans expect companies to stand for something more than just making money.
  • 61% agree that in 10 years most of our country’s electricity should be generated by utilities through solar fields and/or wind farms.
  • 82% of Millennials feel anxious about how climate change will impact their children’s quality of life.
  • Only 13% of Americans today deny that climate change is real and caused by man.

We’ve watched these trends for more than a decade now, and I can tell you they are all moving in an upward right direction. If I were running a carbon-intensive company I’d pay attention to those trends and use them as my guide for long-range decisions, despite what regulators do or don’t do right away. Nobody wants to be remembered as the CEO that missed the writing on the wall. Nobody wants to be permanently branded as a polluter. And nobody really wants our children and grandchildren to suffer in the future from our inability to make hard decisions today.

Make the right decisions, build the business models to make those decisions work, and dedicate yourself to selling those decisions and business models to the regulators whose blessings you need. That’s how you create certainty.

News of the Week
Utilities rev up the electric vehicle renaissance – Forbes

On a similar note, read how utilities can take advantage of vehicle electrification initiatives to reinvigorate their renewable energy goals. Not only do utilities provide the “fuel” for electric vehicles. As the Edison Electric Institute makes clear, “utilities can achieve a ‘quadruple win’” by embracing electrification – “making better use of existing grid assets, pleasing customers, cutting costs, and reducing environmental impact.”

Etsy becomes the first global ecommerce company to completely offset carbon emissions from shipping – Etsy News

Congratulations to Etsy for its commitment to tackling the problem of carbon emissions from ecommerce shipping – a growing problem in the United States. According to the company’s research, “98 percent of Etsy’s total emissions stem from items shipped” from sellers to buyers. Now, with each customer purchase, Etsy will buy carbon emissions reduction offsets through partner 3Degrees. The offsets will benefit environmental projects globally. Read about those projects here – as well as Etsy’s overarching sustainability program and initiatives.

When it comes to sustainability, how does YOUR company stack up?

We’ve interviewed sustainability leaders and gathered their advice for what it takes to successfully bake sustainability into a corporate structure. Learn the stages of corporate sustainability – from initial strategy to final implementation – and get the game plan to achieve a competitive advantage by mobilizing your team.

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About the Author

Suzanne Shelton

Suzanne Shelton

Where Suzanne sees opportunity, you can bet results will follow. Drawing on her extensive knowledge of both the advertising world and the energy and environment arena, Suzanne provides unparalleled strategic insights to our clients and to audiences around North America. Suzanne is a guest columnist in multiple publications and websites, such as GreenBiz, and she speaks at around 20 conferences a year, including Sustainable Brands, Fortune Brainstorm E and Green Build.

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Suzanne Shelton

President and CEO

Suzanne is the voice and the vision of Shelton Group. Drawing on her extensive experience in energy and the environment – and 25+ years in the marketing and advertising industry – Suzanne provides high-level strategic insights for our clients and guidance for our research and creative departments. She regularly speaks at conferences around the country, including Sustainable Brands, Fortune Brainstorm E and the International Builders’ Show, and serves as a guest columnist for publications like Fast Company, Green Builder and

Susannah Enkema

VP Research & Insights

Susannah directs our research team and plays a key role in extracting the nuggets of information that pave the way for recommended marketing strategies and creative approaches. Susannah has nearly two decades of market research and strategy experience, including her role as president of SE Consulting, where she led the services for the likes of DIY Network and the makers of GORE-TEX®.

Matt Brass

VP Creative

Matt steers the creative department in concepting, designing and producing campaigns. He ensures sound strategy and deep insights inform everything his team develops, and works closely with the accounts department to ensure copy and designs will meet our clients’ goals. As a designer and filmmaker himself, he’s also a principal contributor to all of Shelton’s in-house photography and videography work.

Courtnay Hamachek

VP Operations

Courtnay oversees our day-to-day operations to keep us running smoothly and support our growth. She establishes project management systems and processes to help our teams anticipate bottlenecks, prevent process issues, and keep projects on time and on target. Courtnay has built extensive experience over 25 years in all aspects of marketing, from account services and project management to design and production.

Aaron Crecy

Digital Marketing Director

Aaron is responsible for planning, executing and measuring digital marketing strategies for Shelton Group and our clients, with an emphasis on inbound, content, SEO, social media, email and paid initiatives. He constantly researches and explores new tactics and strategies to improve digital campaign performance and results.

Aaron brings to the table more than 20 years of marketing leadership experience with premium consumer-facing brands. He came to Shelton Group by way of Malibu Boats, where, as Director of Global Marketing, he oversaw strategic marketing planning and execution for multiple product lines, with specific emphasis on social media and digital. Prior to that, he served as CMO for a leading daily fantasy sports operator, guiding it from startup to the industry’s third-ranked site.

Scot Case

Senior Consultant

A sustainability strategy consultant since 1993, Scot has served as non-profit leader, as a partner in an environmental marketing firm that he grew and sold, and as an executive in a multi-billion-dollar, international company. He has published dozens of articles and case studies, was co-author of the original “Sins of Greenwashing” study, testified before Congress, and been quoted on NPR, Good Morning America, CNN, The New York Times, Business Week, and the Wall Street Journal. Scot was also highlighted in an Emmy award-winning documentary on sustainable purchasing.

Casey Ward

VP Account Services

Casey manages our relationships, growth and development with a specific group of clients that includes Environmental Defense Fund, Cotton LEADS and CertainTeed Insulation. She provides leadership and support for the account team members who manage the day-to-day processes for these clients. She contributes to strategic direction for each client and guides our creative efforts to ensure everything we do builds toward meeting – or exceeding – the client’s goals. Her ability to simultaneously see the big picture and pay close attention to the details helps her champion her clients’ needs and identify new growth opportunities for them.