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First Energy announces long-term goal of carbon neutrality

First Energy, one of the region’s most prominent energy suppliers, today announced a pledge to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050.

The company also set an interim goal of 30 percent reduction in greenhouse gases within the company’s direct operational control by 2030, based on 2019 levels.

First Energy is a major source for power customers in West Virginia through Monongahela Power Company, commonly called Mon Power, and Potomac Edison Company. There are 986,800 people in First Energy’s service territory in West Virginia.

Electric power is provided to FirstEnergy’s West Virginia service area by:

  • Potomac Edison Company
  • Monongahela Power Company (Mon Power)

“We believe climate change is among the most important issues of our time,” said President and Acting Chief Executive Officer Steven E. Strah in a statement put out by First Energy.

“We will help address this challenge by building a more climate-resilient energy system and supporting the transition to a carbon-neutral economy. Our ambitious new carbon goal and comprehensive climate strategy are fully aligned with our regulated business strategy and support our commitments to our customers, communities and investors, as well as environmental stewardship.”

The company additionally stated that “we have a responsibility to our stakeholders to proactively mitigate the company’s climate change risks and capitalize on emerging opportunities in a carbon-neutral economy – all while meeting the changing needs of our diverse customer base.”

First Energy spokesman Will Boye noted on MetroNews’ “Talkline this morning that the company has introduced several specific steps.

“This is something we’ve been talking about for a long time, and this is something we were going to be pursuing regardless of politics,” Boye said.

“And it’s important to us, it’s important to our management team and we feel we have a responsibility to our customers and our employees and our shareholders.”

The company outlined several steps to achieve its goals:

  • Hardening its transmission and distribution systems to reduce the physical risks of climate change
  • Replacing conventional utility trucks with electric and hybrid vehicles and responsibly replacing other aging equipment that emits greenhouse gasses
  • Reducing emissions at its small regulated generation fleet, while preparing for the transition away from coal-fired power in West Virginia by 2050
  • Supporting renewable and distributed energy resources, including seeking approval in 2021 to construct a solar generation source of at least 50 megawatts in West Virginia
  • Using advanced technology to enable customers to manage their energy use
  • Integrating carbon pricing into financial forecasting
  • Empowering employees to identify opportunities that drive environmental responsibility

In 2015, FirstEnergy announced plans to achieve a 90 percent reduction in carbon dioxide emissions from 2005 levels by 2045.

So far, the company has reduced COemissions by about 80 percent through new technologies and retiring or transferring generation assets. The new goals represent a significant expansion of the original target and reflect FirstEnergy’s transformation to a fully regulated utility.

First Energy’s 10 electric distribution companies form one of the nation’s largest investor-owned electric systems, serving customers in Ohio, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, West Virginia, Maryland and New York.

The company’s transmission subsidiaries operate more than 24,500 miles of transmission lines that connect the Midwest and Mid-Atlantic regions.

American Electric Power, another company with a big presence in West Virginia, has stated plans to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 70 percent by 2030 and 80 percent by 2050, add more than 8,000 megawatts of regulated wind and solar through 2030 and invest $2.3 billion in renewables through 2024.

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