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| 1 minute read

How "ESG" is your electricity?

I have been intrigued by several recent news reports regarding France's plans to increase their use of nuclear power, in part as a means of reducing carbon emissions and slowing climate change.  Viewed through an "environmental, social and governance" ("ESG") lens, one can argue potentially high marks for "E" (no carbon emissions) - which is what France is touting.  However, if I were to advise a client proposing to develop the same project in California, I suspect they would receive a significantly different review - likely negative marks for "E:"  (risks associated with long-term radioactive waste management / disposal) as well as "S:" (heightened risks of accidents from accidents at the plants as well as targets for terrorist acts, the ultimate "not in my backyard" combination - a completely understandable reaction and one that carries additional weight when advanced under an environmental justice flag).

In short, this is another example of the good and sustainable governance ("G") dilemma; how to appropriately measure E and S impacts and make those tough calls in balancing sometimes competing public policy initiatives.  Hopefully advancements in and wider acceptance of ESG indexes for measuring "E" and "S" costs and benefits will result in sustainable solutions.  In the interim, I anticipate continued outcomes where local politics and cultural values will result in widely disparate policies and technical solutions to otherwise common problems.

"The threat of war in Ukraine coupled with the supply chain crunch is causing France to consider expanding its nuclear energy program. It will build as many as 14 nuclear reactors by 2050 — not just to resist natural gas shortages but also to battle climate change. Construction could begin in 2028. "


esg, nuclear, electricity, environmental, governance, policy, social