Corporate Green Energy Adoption Flourishes

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Corporations have finally put their collective weight into a green energy rush this year that may expand much faster than over the recent past. The average size of the renewable energy acquisition by US corporates has risen from 85.6 megawatts during the third quarter of last year to a whopping 411.4 MW in the third quarter of this year, according to GreenBiz.

While there are hundreds of corporates that are now buying green energy, some of the biggest green corporations are the driving force behind the recent growth, says Alexandra Chin, a media specialist at Rocky Mountain Institute in Boulder.

Image credit: REBA

The frenzy is not yet over. The volume of megawatts-plus deals that were announced at the beginning of the year will top out at around 7.15 GW, compared to 6.36 GW last year, Chin notes. Many deals signed in Q3 involved energy from multiple projects and locations.

The corporations adding the most green energy during the first three quarters of this year are led by AT&T, Google, T-Mobile, Microsoft, Honda, Facebook, Sprint, and Gap, according to the Renewable Energy Buyers Alliance (REBA). Google did a 1.6-gigawatt (GW) deal and one of AT&T’s deals was for 960 MW, according to GreenBiz Group. Indeed, the top 10 deals of this past quarter were all 100 MW or larger, GreenBiz notes.

The pace quickens. For example, Apple, eBay, Samsung, and Sprint locked up a 75 MW deal in Texas on November 5, part of the 500 MW White Mesa Wind Project is expected to come online in 2021 in Crockett County, TX. “We’re proud to be powering all of Apple’s operations around the world with 100 percent renewable energy and driving the private sector to support the clean energy transition,” said Lisa Jackson, Apple’s Vice President of Environment, Policy and Social Initiatives, in a statement. “Businesses of all sizes and of varying energy needs can help bring new, renewable energy online,” she adds.

Samsung notes that “This project marks another step toward reaching our corporate goal of reducing Sprint’s carbon footprint,” said Chas Peterson, Vice President of Procurement for Sprint. “We are also greening our supply chain by partnering with some of our key suppliers on this innovative shared energy purchase,” he says.

Another strong indicator that the Corporate Green Energy trend is taking off is that about 50% of the unique buyers in 2019 were first-time buyers, REBA reports. Among the trends in this space are: that corporates are inking deals for multiple projects; and the timing is right — “The uptick in the number of deals and size of deals reflects market forces that may be spurring on renewable procurements,” writes analyst Sarah Golden of GreenBiz, drawing on Q2 deals.

Still there are limits to growth. One REBA board member, Michael Terrell, who is also the Head of Energy Market Strategy at Google, recently wrote, “For Google, 2018 was the second year in a row in which we matched 100 percent of our global electricity consumption with renewable sources. It’s truly amazing that renewable energy has come so far, so fast. And yet, the degree of progress has varied from organization to organization. Larger companies like Google have been able to purchase clean energy because we have the scale, resources, and expertise to sign complex, long-term deals or partner directly with utilities or governments. However, for most organizations, their energy procurement hasn’t changed much since renewables burst onto the scene. The owners of your neighborhood bakery, for example, probably have no more ability to determine the source of their electricity than they did a decade ago. Renewable energy may be cheap, but it’s still often difficult to access.”

Since 2014, the REBA community has grown to over 200 large energy buyers, and over 150 clean energy providers and service providers. Participants in the REBA community have been a part of 95% of all large-scale US corporate renewable energy deals to date, the organization says.

“With dedicated expertise from four successful nonprofit programs that have helped organizations break through barriers in renewable energy procurement in recent years, REBA’s goal is to catalyze 60 gigawatts (GW) of new renewable energy by 2025, and expand the number of organizations buying clean power from dozens today to tens of thousands,” REBA states.

REBA was formed around the concept that organizations should have one place to go for planning and meeting energy needs with clean, affordable renewable energy. So in 2018, four leading NGOS — Rocky Mountain Institute, World Wildlife Fund, World Resources Institute, and Business for Social Responsibility — merged their renewable energy programs, the Business Renewables Center, the Future of Internet Power, the Buyers Principles, and Green Tariff programs, REBA says.

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Charles W. Thurston

Charles specializes in renewable energy, from finance to technological processes. Among key areas of focus are bifacial panels and solar tracking. He has been active in the industry for over 25 years, living and working in locations ranging from Brazil to Papua New Guinea.

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