Make This Earth Day an Opportunity to Build the Future

From a simple idea to a global movement, Earth Day should remind us of the preciousness of the resources we’ve been given, and the responsibility we all hold to protect them. We’re in this together, we can do this together. On this 54th Earth Day, let’s not only reflect on how far we’ve come, but also how much opportunity sits ahead of us.

April 22 marks Earth Day, and we’ve come a long way. What began 55 years ago with a day set aside to honor the Earth has blossomed into a global movement.

With many major milestones along the way– the 20th anniversary in 1990 paving the way for the 1992 United Nations Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, the Call for Climate campaign in 2008 that encouraged one million phone calls to Congress to push for climate change legislation, the formal adoption of the Paris Agreement by the United Nations on Earth Day 2016, the largest legally-binding global commitment to combatting climate change – a simple proposal from a peace activist became the Earth’s galvanizing idea. Earth Day is now known as a convener of comprehensive action on environmental awareness, pollution and conservationism worldwide.

It would be easy for people to assume – and some do – that the goals of Earth Day and those of people working in industries of all types are misaligned. In my view, however, they are intertwined.

While early industry support came from the United Auto Workers, and organizers refused financial support from companies they deemed “dirty”, corporations today are significant contributors to Earth Day’s mission in financial support, operational commitments to reducing carbon emissions and supporting the lives interests and efforts of their employees and communities in creating a cleaner world.

Both want a sustainable future. Industry may put a stronger emphasis on financial performance while environmentalists prioritize conservation and reducing pollution and harmful emissions. They may disagree about the degree to which industry’s operations are harmful to the planet or how investments in climate mitigation should be made but, for the most part, there continues to be growing consensus that “business as usual” isn’t necessarily the best strategy. Innovation is imperative.

The utility industry, in which our company, 4Liberty, operates, sits at the intersection of this new era of innovation. The utility industry both serves and is supported by everyday taxpayers – you and me – to bring safe, reliable and affordable gas, water and electricity to the communities in which they operate. They face increasing pressures from consumers and regulators to meet environmental mandates while also working with the complex calculus of balancing the demand for more sustainable energy with an uneven – and at times unpredictable – supply made up of traditional fossil fuels, renewable energy and bridge fuels. For example, natural gas currently powers approximately 40 percent of electricity in the United States, and in California, according to utility companies, roughly 40 percent of the gas in the pipes today will still be needed in 2045.

And, utility leaders are supporting the country’s energy transition at the same time they’re replacing aging infrastructure, hardening the grid against both natural disasters and risks of cyberattacks, and working to increase supply to meet significantly growing demand.

I’ve touched on this before while advocating for the essential role of the performance based PMO but some key drivers are worth restating.

 - Tesla CEO Elon Musk called for a three-fold increase in electric power generation in 10 years. And, while Tesla recently announced a 10 percent reduction in its workforce, don’t read into that as an indicator that demand for electric vehicles is on the decline. Fatih Birol, executive director of the International Energy Agency, recently wrote in the Financial Times that one in 25 cars sold worldwide in 2020 were electric; that number jumped to one in five by 2023.

- Datacenters in the Pacific Northwest, the Mid-Atlantic, and California aren’t able to access the power they need, power that’s essential for a dynamic economy.

- New industrial construction in Northeast is being held back because they don’t have the electricity to operate.

- EV proliferation in urban areas, where utilities lack visibility into charging patterns, stressing critical infrastructure like transformers during peak times.

The good news is that new investment in technology and innovation, clean energy and other climate programs is on the rise. Bloomberg recently reported that global investments in the clean-energy transition reached $2.8 trillion in 2023, with funding for electric vehicles, renewable energy and power grids leading the investment surge. Policy initiatives are funneling new financing and incentives into the energy transition, with the Inflation Reduction Act leading the charge with hundreds of billions of dollars earmarked and dedicated to fighting climate change.

And the collective efforts of policymakers, innovators and utilities have already shown signs of paying off. In California, for example, recent reports show major advancements in renewable energy usage, with analysis indicating that, over the last month, the state’s energy grid has been 100 percent powered by clean renewables every day.

As I reflect on these advancements, I’m optimistic. Goals as ambitious as a complete energy transition are often hard to grapple with. They’re too big. The timeline is too long. The resistance is too strong.

But when I see the progress we’re seeing, I’m reminded that the utility of the future isn’t in the future. It’s here. It’s now. We have the smarts. We have the tools. We have the responsibility. We can bring everything together to accelerate performance and outcomes.

On this Earth Day, rather than calling on utilities to change their ways, or lambasting climate polluters for their delays, I’m inviting my industry colleagues – the innovators creating new approaches; the engineers, security, design and construction professionals making our infrastructure safe; the expert planners in finance, supply chain, IT and OT, and more – to come together anew and double down on performance. Utilities stand at the center of our energy future. We stand with them.

From a simple idea to a global movement, Earth Day should remind us of the preciousness of the resources we’ve been given, and the responsibility we all hold to protect them. We’re in this together, we can do this together. On this 54th Earth Day, let’s not only reflect on how far we’ve come, but also how much opportunity sits ahead of us.

Happy Earth Day


Sharelynn Moore

CEO, 4Liberty

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Angela Lockwood, VP, Marketing & Communications

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