Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Utility Carbon-Reduction Tracker™

What is the SEPA Utility Carbon-Reduction Tracker™?

A public resource that aggregates and summarizes industry commitments to carbon reduction.
Why is the data organized this way?

The data is divided into three different maps (or tabs):  Utilities & Utility Parents, Distribution Utilities, and 100% State Requirements. Separating these different types of targets is necessary to fully understand the scope and nuances of carbon-reduction targets — including who has adopted a target, and why — within the industry.
What does the Utilities & Utility Parents map include?

This map displays carbon-reduction targets adopted by individual electric utilities (including G&Ts), as well as individual electric utilities that are subject to a state-level 100% requirement. It also displays carbon-reduction targets adopted voluntarily by parent companies of utilities that provide retail electric distribution service. A target adopted by a utility parent does not necessarily require individual utilities owned by the parent to comply with the overarching target.
What does the Distribution Utilities map include?

This map displays carbon-reduction targets adopted voluntarily by individual electric utilities, as well as individual electric utilities that are subject to a state-level 100% requirement. It does not display individual electric utilities owned by a utility parent that has adopted a voluntary carbon-reduction target (unless the individual utility is subject to a state-level 100% requirement). All utilities displayed provide retail electric distribution service.
What does the 100% State Requirements map include?

This map displays U.S. states that have established a binding 100% clean or renewable energy standard, or a binding net-zero requirement that applies to electric distribution utilities. These requirements can apply to specific utilities, to specific types of utilities, or economy-wide. Related state policy actions that are less enforceable, including executive orders and non-binding goals, are not displayed.
Where did SEPA obtain the utility service territory map data?

The Oak Ridge National Laboratory’s (ORNL) Geographic Information Science & Technology group generated the boundaries of the utility service territories. However, shape files for some individual utilities are not available and therefore do not appear in the maps. In a few cases, SEPA has adjusted some utility shape files.
Does the SEPA Utility Carbon-Reduction Tracker classify targets that apply to public power utilities, including municipal utilities, as voluntary or mandatory?

Targets adopted by public power utilities that exceed or are independent of a 100% state requirement are classified as voluntary.
In the Distribution Utilities map, for the Voluntary/Mandatory filter, what does “Both” indicate?

This indicates that a distribution utility is subject to a 100% state requirement, but the utility also has established a voluntary goal that exceeds or supplements the 100% state requirement.
How often is the SEPA Utility Carbon-Reduction Tracker updated?

The SEPA Utility Carbon-Reduction Tracker is a living resource that SEPA updates regularly as new information becomes available. To alert us to new or missing data, or a potential correction, please email research@sepapower.org.
Where does SEPA get the information provided in the SEPA Utility Carbon-Reduction Tracker?

Directly from documents published by individual utilities, utility parents and G&Ts. With around 700 member utilities, SEPA closely monitors industry developments related to carbon reduction. The information displayed in the 100% State Requirements map reflects SEPA’s best understanding of current state policy requirements that apply to electric utilities.
Why does the SEPA Utility Carbon-Reduction Tracker include 100% clean energy standards and 100% renewable energy standards established by states?

A 100% clean energy standard typically requires that electricity be generated by zero-carbon resources (including nuclear energy), whereas a 100% renewable energy standard (also known as a renewable portfolio standard, or RPS) requires that electricity be generated solely by renewable resources (excluding nuclear energy). Under both scenarios, electric utilities subject to the requirement must provide carbon-free electricity.
Do the requirements displayed in the 100% State Requirements map apply to all electric utilities in the state?

This varies by state. Use the “hover” function to view details on each state requirement.
Why doesn't the SEPA Utility Carbon-Reduction Tracker include targets or state requirements designed to achieve a portion (i.e., less than 100%) of clean or renewable energy?

Such targets and requirements typically don’t take into account potential load growth and don’t necessarily reduce overall carbon emissions.
How can I tell whether a voluntary target or 100% state requirement addresses carbon emissions specifically or GHG emissions more broadly?

Each target and requirement includes a brief summary of the actual target adopted or requirement established.
Are interim targets included?

SEPA maintains data on interim targets internally, but that information isn’t publicly available on the SEPA Utility Carbon-Reduction Tracker at this time.
Are targets designed to reduce carbon intensity included?

No. Such targets don’t necessarily reduce overall carbon emissions.
Are gas utilities included?

Not at this time.
What are Scope 1, Scope 2 and Scope 3 emissions?

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency defines Scope 1 emissions as direct greenhouse (GHG) emissions that occur from sources that are controlled or owned by an organization. Scope 2 emissions are indirect GHG emissions associated with the purchase of electricity, steam, heat or cooling. Although Scope 2 emissions physically occur at the facility where they are generated, they are accounted for in an organization’s GHG inventory because they are a result of the organization’s energy use. Scope 3 emissions are the result of activities from assets not owned or controlled by the reporting organization, but that the organization indirectly impacts in its value chain. Scope 3 emissions include all sources not within an organization’s Scope 1 and 2 boundary. See here for more information.
Where did SEPA obtain data for utility customer accounts?

From U.S. Energy Information Administration Form EIA-861.
How should I cite the SEPA Carbon-Reduction Tracker in a report?

SEPA Utility Carbon-Reduction Tracker™. Smart Electric Power Alliance (SEPA). Retrieved [Month Day, Year], from https://sepapower.org/utility-transformation-challenge/utility-carbon-reduction-tracker.

About the Utility Transformation Challenge

What is the SEPA Utility Transformation Challenge?

The SEPA Utility Transformation Challenge is a comprehensive, honest assessment of U.S. electric distribution utilities’ efforts to embrace the transition to a carbon-free energy future. For this project, we collected information about how utilities and their stakeholders are rising to this challenge, as well as the unique innovations they are employing. The primary components of the Utility Transformation Challenge are the Utility Transformation Survey, the Utility Transformation Profile and the 2021 Utility Transformation Leaderboard.
How is this different from what SEPA has done in previous years?

In previous years, SEPA surveyed U.S. electric utilities annually to collect and assess deployment data for grid-tied solar power, energy storage and demand response (DR). In recognition of the increased industry focus on carbon reduction, SEPA launched the Utility Transformation Challenge — a new initiative to gauge and present a holistic view of U.S. electric distribution utilities’ (hereafter referred to as “utilities”) progress in transforming the energy system towards a clean and modern energy future. The Utility Transformation Challenge significantly expands the survey focus to information on utility initiatives and innovation that support the transition to a carbon-free energy future.
Who was eligible to participate in the Utility Transformation Challenge?

All U.S. electric distribution utilities, including investor-owned utilities, public power utilities and electric distribution cooperatives.
Can I see a list of utilities that participated in the Utility Transformation Challenge?

This information is not publicly available. (SEPA assured utility participants that they would remain anonymous, with the exception of Leaderboard Utilities.)
Is Utility Transformation Challenge data publicly available?

The Utility Transformation Profile presents a large amount of aggregated data. Additional project data is not publicly available. (SEPA assured utility participants that they and the data they provided would remain anonymous, with the exception of Leaderboard Utilities.)
Will SEPA be providing a benchmarking report like in prior years?

Participating utilities will be receiving information in the form of a private report providing further insight into their evaluation results this year. This report will provide information regarding utility overall placement, dimension scores, and scores for some of the categories that make up the four dimensions.
How can I find out how my utility participated in the Utility Transformation Challenge?

Participating utilities will be receiving information in the form of a private report providing further insight into their evaluation results this year.
Will there be another Utility Transformation Challenge?

Yes, we intend to continue to regularly assess utilities’ progress in the transformation.
Why should my utility participate in the Utility Transformation Challenge?

The Utility Transformation Challenge offers utilities a chance to participate in a comprehensive assessment to-date of utilities’ efforts to transition to a carbon-free energy future. Under this project, we are collecting extensive information about how utilities and their stakeholders are rising to this challenge and the unique innovations they are employing. We need your help to capture this information and want to hear from you about your efforts related to the transformation. Participation in the Utility Transformation Challenge gives utilities of all sizes, types, and geographies a chance to be recognized for innovation and industry leadership. In future years, we aim to provide benchmarking to participating utilities to help support their transition to a clean and modern grid.
How can my utility participate in the next Utility Transformation Challenge?

Please visit our website at <span style=”color: #41c475;”><a style=”color: #41c475;” href=”https://sepastaging.wpengine.com/utility-transformation-challenge/survey/”>sepastaging.wpengine.com/utility-transformation-challenge/survey/</a></span>, and complete a form indicating your interest.

The Utility Transformation Survey

What is the Utility Transformation Survey?

This broad industry survey targeting electric utilities consisted of six individual surveys designed to capture progress in multiple industry areas. The individual surveys addressed corporate leadership, demand flexibility, grid integration, utility business models, solar and energy storage, and transportation electrification. The survey was conducted from April through June 2020.
How many utilities participated in the Utility Transformation Survey?

SEPA received survey responses from 135 individual utilities, representing more than 83 million customer accounts, or approximately 63% of all U.S. electric customer accounts.
How many investor-owned utilities participated in the Utility Transformation Survey?

SEPA received survey responses from 94 investor-owned utilities.
How many public power utilities participated in the Utility Transformation Survey?

SEPA received survey responses from 20 public power utilities.
How many distribution cooperatives participated in the Utility Transformation Survey?

SEPA received survey responses from 21 distribution cooperatives.
What form did the Utility Transformation Survey questions take?

Nearly all survey questions took the form of multiple choice or “select all that apply.” A very small number of “fill in the blank” questions were included.
What timeframe does the data from the Utility Transformation Survey represent?

SEPA conducted the Utility Transformation Survey in the spring and summer of 2020. For all questions, participants were asked to respond based on the status of decisions, actions, processes, or practices that were approved and in effect when the survey was taken unless stated otherwise in the report.

Utility Transformation Profile

What is the Utility Transformation Profile?

This data-rich report presents the findings of this year’s Utility Transformation Challenge. It highlights utilities that are leading in the transformation and examines the industry’s transition by exploring Four Dimensions of Utility Transformation: (1) Clean Energy Resources, (2) Corporate Leadership, (3) Modern Grid Enablement, and (4) Aligned Actions and Engagement. Using these dimensions, the report identifies the common attributes of utilities that are leading the transformation.
Why are the findings presented in the Utility Transformation Profile meaningful?

The transformation to a clean and modern grid requires much more than clean energy generation. The Utility Transformation Challenge offers the industry a more comprehensive assessment of utility actions, initiatives, and leadership that support the transition to a carbon-free energy future. The results illustrate to utilities, regulators, legislators, technology and solution providers, and customers the opportunities available to them to accelerate the transition.

The findings presented in the Utility Transformation Profile – based on the results of our surveys, and insights gained from the utilities leading in this transition – form the basis for a set of key recommendations for utilities of all sizes, types, and geographies as they pursue their own path of transformation.

How did SEPA evaluate participating utilities?

SEPA evaluated utilities based on their survey responses, which served as the quantitative basis for the evaluation framework in this report. SEPA directly analyzed responses to many survey questions. Other responses yielded additional insight and background for contextual purposes. For evaluation purposes, SEPA assigned individual survey questions a scoring weight. In order to measure an individual utility’s progress, points awarded were totaled across each dimension to determine an overall score. Utilities that did not meet the minimum threshold for survey completion did not receive an overall score and were not eligible for Leaderboard consideration.
Will SEPA publish the scoring / evaluation methodology for the Utility Transformation Profile?

While the details of our scoring methodology and evaluation framework aren’t publicly available, the Utility Transformation Profile provides an overview of our approaches to both.

Utility Transformation Leaderboard

What is the 2021 Utility Transformation Leaderboard?

This list recognizes 10 utilities — Leaderboard Utilities — that demonstrated the greatest progress toward a modern and carbon-free energy system, based on the findings of the Utility Transformation Survey.
Who was eligible for the 2021 Leaderboard?

Utilities that met the minimum threshold for survey completion were eligible for consideration. Those that did not meet this threshold were not eligible.

We intend to regularly assess utilities’ progress in the transformation.