In late July of this year, in a packed conference room in Washington, D.C., David Eves, Group President of Utilities at Xcel Energy, addressed a crowd of several hundred people gathered for the morning’s keynote at the Smart Energy Power Alliance (SEPA) Conference.
Without mincing words, he outlined Xcel’s strategy to go carbon-free by 2050, citing among the reasons: (1) customers and communities committing to going carbon-neutral, (2) investors asking utilities to align with the science on climate change, (3) technologies making all this possible, and (4) most importantly, the threat to humanity posed by climate change.
Xcel made news last year for being the first large utility in the country to set a target of going 100% carbon-free by 2050. Xcel gets it, private investors get it, the public gets it, and a 16-year-old kid, Greta Thunberg from Sweden, most certainly gets it.
Climate change is an existential threat unlike anything we have seen before. A Pentagon report published in early 2019 identified 80 mission-essential installations at risk due to rising seas and wildfires, portents of a new type of national security threat. Cities like Jakarta may be underwater by 2050. And this year, the people of Iceland had the somber task of writing the epitaph of the Okjokull Glacier.
Canaries in a Coalmine
My wife and I often play this climate change scenario game. I’m guessing you have a similar version at home. “How much time do you think we have?” She asked the other day while we were in the car.
You see, my wife and I have deep roots in the Southwest and have been discussing buying another home here in Tucson, Arizona, near one of three ILLUME locations. Tucson is part of the Sonoran Desert, a region known for a biome that stretches 100,000 miles from Baja, California and the Sea of Cortez. The desert landscapes rise through the temperate forests of Mount Lemmon (9,000 ft. in elevation) in the Coronado National Forest.
Back to the car ride. “How much time do you think we have?” … “Before it’s so hot that its unsustainable?” (I usually play the foil). The answer is always in the neighborhood of bleak to well-at-least-the-kids-should-be-alright. Then the conversation pivots to the cost of bottled water and the sad realization that a water industry exists in the first place. These conversations should not be happening, but here we are.
This is why a sixteen-year-old kid from Sweden risked crossing the Atlantic in a zero-emissions yacht to camp out in front of the White House to demand action on climate change. I’m pretty sure Greta Thunberg and David Eves have never met, but I can assure you they agree on the moral imperative of climate change.
One of the things that sets ILLUME apart in the energy consulting space is our unwavering support for
causes and issues that matter most to our employees—equity, diversity, work-life balance, climate change.
In our opinion, there is little separation between our work lives and our lives outside our professional roles. This is how we live our values.
On Friday, September 20th, the day of the World Climate Strike, it’s likely that you may run into one of our employees at a local community rally, or riding their bike to work, or typing away while riding the bus or the subway to reduce their carbon footprint. Some will simply choose to work from home. In the aggregate, we don’t have to be exceptional to bend the (environmental) arc of justice in the right direction. We just have to lean against it.