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The EY Sustainability Matters podcast

Sep 8, 2023

The necessary transition away from fossil fuels toward clean energy can be extremely disruptive for people and communities reliant on fossil fuel plants and mines for jobs. How can the power generators support these communities and achieve a just transition to a cleaner energy future?

In the latest episode of the Sustainability Matters podcast, host Bruno Sarda, Principal at Ernst & Young LLP and Shannon Roberts, CCaSS Power and Utilities Leader at Ernst & Young LLP, interview Sandy Nessing, Vice President and Chief Sustainability Officer at American Electric Power (AEP) about how the company is developing a new model for a just energy transition. 

Nessing points out that the current economy is heavily fossil fuel-dependent, so the green energy transition has to be implemented thoughtfully to avoid severe social and economic risks. People reliant on the plants and communities built around them should be considered when driving the energy transition.

Nessing shares an example of AEP’s Pirkey Plant in the US, in the process of being decommissioned. She gives listeners insights into how AEP created a transition task force and engaged with community leaders to help mitigate the impact on the local people.

Both Roberts and Nessing agree that power plants form their own unique social and economic ecosystems, and a proper, just transition requires thoughtful intention and may take a long time. Hence the importance of early planning, including engagement and collaboration with communities, and retaining and leveraging partnerships with stakeholders in the company’s value chain.

Key takeaways include:

  • The transition to cleaner power generation should involve supporting communities dependent on the fossil fuel industry.
  • Green energy transition impacts people not just in the industry itself, but also those in the supply chain and regional economy.
  • Engaging with leaders from every area of the community is vital: from local politicians to school superintendents.
  • The top priority of a just transition should be to keep people, taxes and jobs within the same region.
  • Planning ahead is vital to allow time for a proper just transition in full collaboration with local communities.

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