If Our Capitalist Overlords Love Clean Power, Who Could Hate It?

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So… this happened. While James Inhofe, US Senator and climate change denier-in-chief, was leading the charge against President Obama’s Clean Power Plan, his supposed constituents in the world of capitalist enterprise were buying up clean power hand over fist. To take just one example, in 2014, private corporations accounted for fully 25% of new installed wind power capacity in the US, and according to the latest figures, you ain’t seen nothing yet.

clean power plan

Private Sector Is Shoving Clean Power Down America’s Throat, Just Like Lightbulbs

The new clean power update comes through the sustainable solutions nonprofit Rocky Mountain Institute, from its Business Renewables Center. The mission of the BRC is to facilitate utility-scale clean energy buys for the private sector, and it has been very busy of late.

At an event in New York earlier this week, BRC reported that corporations in the US are already set to zip past last year’s record-setting pace of clean power buys. Within just the past 10 months, corporations have signed up for more than 2 gigawatts of utility-scale solar and wind power, far beyond last year’s 12-month mark of 1.4 gigawatts.

BRC isn’t shy about taking its share of credit for the trend, noting that it has facilitated about 75% of corporate clean power buys within the past two years. BRC members also make a good showing in support of the Obama Administration’s efforts to engage the private sector in national clean power and energy efficiency initiatives. The latest list of US EPA Green Power Leaders includes about a half-dozen BRC members, and about a score are included in the 81-strong list of corporations signing on to the American Business Act on Climate Pledge.

Though many BRC member corporations are not exactly household names, together they pack a huge punch. Here’s the rundown from BRC:

“BRC companies now represent total annual revenues of $1.3 trillion, global annual electricity consumption of 41.7 TWh (equivalent to ~3.8 million American homes), and for publicly traded companies, a collective market capitalization of $2.14 trillion.”

To give you an idea of the resources that corporate America is pouring into clean power, here’s a taste from the BRC blog:

“New corporate members include Autodesk, Avery Dennison, Cisco, Digital Realty, EMC Corporation, Equinix, Etsy, FedEx, Microsoft, Starwood Hotels, Steelcase, Workday, Xanterra Parks & Resorts, Yahoo!, and others.

“New sponsors include 3Degrees, Affordable Solar, Bank of America Merrill Lynch, Capital Power, Community Energy, Duke Energy Renewables, EDF Renewable Energy, Gaelectric, Iberdrola Renewables, Infinity Wind Power, K&L Gates, PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP, ReneSola, Renewable Energy Systems Americas, Sempra U.S. Gas & Power, SoCore Energy, SolarCity, Sol Systems, Tradewind Energy, and WSP Group.”

You can get the full list from the BRC website, and if you’re surprised to see Lockheed Martin among the members, we aren’t. Among other projects, the company has been dabbling in ocean thermal energy.


More Clean Power On The Way

Speaking of the American Business Act on Climate Pledge, on October 19, President Obama announced new commitments to this corporate clean power initiative, which now includes the aforementioned 81 signers after launching in July with just 13 on the list.

Here’s the latest rundown on the group:

“These 81 companies have operations in all 50 states, employ over 9 million people, represent more than $3 trillion in annual revenue, and have a combined market capitalization of over $5 trillion.”

Among the promises made by these companies are a pledge to use 100% renewable energy, and to publicize their support for a strong outcome in the upcoming COP21 climate talks in Paris.

About Those Light Bulbs…

By the way, we bring up light bulbs because the opposition to the Clean Power Plan is following exactly the same pattern as the light bulb wars, which are finally winding down after roaring into life at the beginning of President Obama’s first term.

The light bulb wars involved opposition to the required phasing in of new federal efficiency standards set by law in 2007, under the Bush Administration. Aside from stirring up lots of publicity for certain federal legislators (okay, so they were all Republicans but who’s counting?) and ginning up fears of government officials charging into your bedroom to change your light bulbs, the whole dust-up didn’t stop the new regulations from taking effect as scheduled.

More to the point, all the hysterical braying over light bulbs didn’t stop the lighting industry — the actual target of the new standards — from taking the opportunity to showcase their innovation skillz and create new jobs. And of course, the US economy certainly didn’t take a nosedive after the new standards were phased in. The crash happened in 2008, and the standards began taking effect in 2012.

Keep that in mind while Senator Inhofe — well known champion of the free market and loyal friend to the fossil lobbying organization Americans for Prosperity (come to think of it, those two things are mutually exclusive, but oh well) — plots the trajectory of his next snowball. For all the sound and fury, there’s no there there. Except for a few holdouts, corporate America is moving on.

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Image via Rocky Mountain Institute

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Tina Casey

Tina specializes in advanced energy technology, military sustainability, emerging materials, biofuels, ESG and related policy and political matters. Views expressed are her own. Follow her on LinkedIn, Threads, or Bluesky.

Tina Casey has 3149 posts and counting. See all posts by Tina Casey

10 thoughts on “If Our Capitalist Overlords Love Clean Power, Who Could Hate It?

  • Change… Real Change… The GOP will continue to serve the whims of their overlords and will now fully support renewables!

    • The GOP might be better named the GTL, Get There Last party.

      Last on racial, gender and sexual identity equality. Last on just about everything. Not that surprising, conservative people are the last to make changes by definition.

      • Sorry Bob, that title’s already taken by the UK government!
        We’re always about 5 years behind the US.

  • Well I have said it before and will again.
    As a person if you have the option:
    a) to stay the same and look at increased cost/bills or
    b) change your ways and have lower cost
    which one would the average person or business go for? 😉

    • Surprisingly few. It’s just so darn comfortable to keep doing things “the way we’ve always done it”.

    • Most don’t have the option yet.

  • Good news. Glad to hear it.

  • David Griffin in his book, “Unprecedented” states that Sen Inhofe had accepted $1.2 million from fossil fuel sources up through 2012.

  • Remember, Names of Republican sponsored bills or names of organizations always are the opposite of their true meaning. In this article “Americans for Prosperity” has a great ring to it, but it really means “Plutocrats for Everyone Else’s Poverty”. There are many other examples. Try out a few for yourself.

  • The opposition to the CPP is from Republican state politicians and the doomed coal industry, full stop. The gas industry and electric utilities can live with it. I bet that behind the scenes they are lobbying for the legal challenge to fail: big business doesn’t like artificial uncertainty, and would hate changing its plans again if SCOTUS ignorantly rewrites the regulation as it did ACA, twice.

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