American Corporate Renewable Energy Procurement Exploding, BRC Reports

corporate renewable energy
(Photo: Wind farm in Texas. Credit: Daxis, Flickr Creative Commons)

Corporate renewable energy procurement has grown and diversified rapidly in the past decade, the Business Renewables Center reported in a new State of the Market Update published this week. The market in the United States started with four unique buyers and has exploded to 51 corporate buyers joining over the past five years.

The Business Renewables Center, a member-based Rocky Mountain Institute initiative that accelerates corporate purchasing of off-site, large-scale wind and solar energy, called 2017 a true benchmark year. Publicly announced contracted capacity from corporate PPAs, green power purchases, green tariffs, and outright project ownership in the United States equaled 2.78 GW last year. Google, Apple, Facebook, Kimberly Clark, and General Motors led the pack with multiple deals.

This year is also off to “a great start,” the BRC’s report says. So far, US deals total 1.96 GW of renewables capacity. The first few months of 2018 have marked a lot of firsts. BRC pointed to examples that included Nike’s wind power deal in Texas, Kohler signing a 100-MW wind PPA with Enel, and AT&T buying wind power from farms in Texas and Oklahoma.

Although tech companies continue to make headlines for renewable energy procurement, the BRC reports a shift from IT-dominated deals to a diverse buyer community. Corporations in the telecommunications, consumer staples, financial, materials, and industrials spaces have added capacity over the past several years. Big tech signed 66% of deals between 2008 and 2013, but currently tech accounts for 45% of all corporate deals signed, the center reported.

Of the 19 companies signing deals last year, 17 were first-time buyers. More states are getting involved, too. Before 2013, corporations were signing renewable energy deals in seven US states. Today, 25 states host corporate renewable energy projects, the BRC reported. Texas is at the top of the list with 31 deals.

Companies are motivated by sustainability first and foremost, the BRC says, noting that more than 130 companies have committed to 100% renewable energy through the RE100 initiative.

BRC member General Motors joined the RE100 in 2016. Rob Threlkeld, global manager of renewable energy for General Motors, recently told Energy Manager Today that engaging with utilities and regional transmission operators (RTOs) to access renewables is part of their approach. Having a diversified portfolio strategy is also important for the automaker, giving them the ability to move as a company wherever it makes the most economic sense.

“Even with market uncertainty stemming from political or regulatory concerns, renewables continue to be a go-to for companies serious about fulfilling their sustainability goals,” Miranda Ballentine, managing director of the Rocky Mountain Institute, told Energy Manager Today. “More companies from more sectors are buying more wind and solar power — now over 9 gigawatts in the US alone. The market’s grown 10 times in just five years, and this is just the beginning.”

The 3rd Annual Environmental Leader & Energy Manager Conference takes place May 15 – 17, 2018 in Denver. Learn more here.

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