CenterPoint Energy executives and investors scuttled a proposal that would have required more robust and transparent emissions tracking. This is in conflict with net-zero commitments made by the utility, and with the reality that massive emissions reductions are needed to avoid the most catastrophic impacts of climate change.
CenterPoint explicitly opposed the measure, brought forward by some of its investors, which would have required it to comprehensively assess customers’ end use (or “Scope 3”) emissions and set targets for reducing those emissions. Scope 3 emissions account for more than 80% of CenterPoint's total emissions, and the utility sidestepping this critical category raises serious questions about its commitment to net-zero emissions.
CenterPoint’s refusal to more fully address emissions from gas use in customers’ homes and businesses, and take steps more meaningful to reduce them, complicates decarbonization goals held by communities served by CenterPoint. Notably, this includes the state of Minnesota and many Minnesota cities -- especially Minneapolis, with whom CenterPoint has committed in a shared Clean Energy Partnership work plan to "decarbonize homes via electrification and energy efficiency retrofits." The utility’s resistance to prioritizing these emissions reductions in its corporate goal-setting is in conflict with this commitment.
CenterPoint shareholders voted down the Scope 3 proposal at the company’s annual meeting on April 21. In urging shareholders to oppose the plan, CenterPoint argued that it is not feasible to track Scope 3 emissions. However, the proposal identifies several peer utilities that incorporate Scope 3 emissions in their net-zero plans. It’s significant that Xcel Energy, which also operates as a gas utility in Minnesota, is acknowledging customer use of fossil gas as part of its net-zero commitment.
Notably, CenterPoint has celebrated its plans to expand its gas system. This stands to increase Scope 3 emissions across its footprint. In addition, CenterPoint has worked legislatively to prevent other emissions-reduction strategies. Crucial context on CenterPoint's net-zero pledge and its conflicting efforts to bolster fossil gas is available here. Additionally, CenterPoint continues to incentivize builders to install fossil gas appliances even when more cost-effective, lower-emission options that are less hazardous are available. When the City of Minneapolis formally requested in February that CenterPoint discontinue this practice, utility executives balked.
Scope 3 targets are increasingly in focus for utilities, and a critical component of necessary emissions reductions. The need to more fully address these emissions will not go away, and utilities' failure to take action will exacerbate the climate crisis and its effects on communities.