Effectiveness of Climate-Related Risk Disclosure in Influencing Gas and Electric Utilities’ Generation Portfolios

June 2021
Claire Huang

Disclosure of climate-related financial risk has been introduced as a way to accelerate the transition to a more sustainable, low-carbon financial system, by reducing information asymmetry between a company and its stakeholders. This paper conducts a case study of two utilities, Duke Energy and NiSource, to evaluate whether the quality and quantity of their disclosed climate risk is a predictor of their plans to retire coal assets, halt construction of new gas infrastructure, and build renewable generation. Through analysis of the two utilities’ climate risk disclosure via their CDP questionnaire responses and their short- and long-term generation plans as outlined in their integrated resource plans (IRPs), this study finds that better quality and higher quantity of climate risk disclosure does not correlate with a utility’s commitment to more ambitious climate action. In designing climate change legislation, including potential legislation to mandate climate risk disclosure, policymakers should carefully consider whether climate risk disclosure is the most appropriate means to produce the intended effect of the legislation. Instead, more extensive IRP modeling and thorough consideration of clean energy technologies and resources may be more effective in accelerating the transition to a lower-carbon economy.