Exelon to Invest Nearly $5 Billion in Low-Carbon Technologies

Exelon to Invest Nearly $5 Billion in Low-Carbon Technologies

Image CC licensed by Flickr user sarahmarie715

Exelon is halfway to its 2020 goal of reducing its carbon footprint by 15.7 million metric tons annually, which is roughly the equivalent of taking 2.7 million cars off the road for a year, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

The utility giant revealed today it would invest nearly $5 billion through 2015 on a range of clean energy and efficiency projects. The moves are part of a broader effort and strategy dubbed Exelon 2020, which revolves around "reducing, offsetting or displacing" more than 15 million metric tons of emissions by 2020 -- approximately the size of the company's greenhouse gas inventory in 2001.

In an update of its Exelon 2020 progress, the company estimates that 93 percent of its direct greenhouse gas emissions come from the burning of fossil fuels to generate power. To meet its emissions reduction goal, Exelon will shut down four carbon-intensive power generation units that run on coal, gas and oil. Combined, the units account for power generating capacity of 933 megawatts.

The company will also continue increasing output from its nuclear fleet; since 2008, production has grown by 100 megawatts but planned expansions through 2017 could add up to 1,500 megawatts of additional capacity. Exelon will also continue investing in green power following its $900 million acquisition this year of John Deere Renewables, which adds an operating portfolio of 735 megawatts of wind power. The deal also opens up the possibility of developing 1,468 megawatts of new wind projects.

However, the company noted that cost is still a major impediment to traditional renewables, which it believes will become more attractive as their price tag declines in the future. Exelon's supply curve analysis, which illustrates the most cost-effective greenhouse gas abatement projects, shows efficiency, nuclear expansion and the retirement of inefficiency generating units to be the most cost-effective means for Exelon to reduce its emissions. A study of its 13-state market found that utilities in the region could avoid 60 million metric tons of emissions through these measures.

Wind, solar and carbon capture and storage are the most expensive abatement options, according to Exelon's analysis.

"However, these options are not the primary answers for today -- they are plainly too expensive relative to the alternatives, particularly in a fragile economy," the company said in its Exelon 2020 update.

Exelon is leaning on its customers to reduce its footprint through efficiency. Like many utilities, Exelon offers energy efficiency programs to its customers and plans to spend up to $290 million per year over the next five years on such efforts in Northern Illinois and southeastern Pennsylvania. Exelon estimates the program could save up to 3.7 million megawatt hours.

ComEd, an Exelon company, is in the middle of a three-year, $235 million energy efficiency program, while PECO, another Exelon company, kicked off a $342 million efficiency program last year.

Exelon also said Tuesday that it had nearly met its energy targets of a 7 percent reduction in its power plants and a 25 percent reduction in its commercial facilities, relative to a 2001 baseline. By late 2009, the company's energy use in its power plants were 6.6 percent lower, and 23.8 percent below its baseline in its commercial facilities.

Image CC licensed by Flickr user sarahmarie715.