In today’s current era of renewable energy targets, action is not just limited to political entities such as the federal government, states or individual cities. In fact, many corporations are getting in on the act by promoting corporate sustainability programs or contracting directly with renewable energy developers to build solar and wind farms specifically for their company. As the solar and wind industries continue to grow, corporate renewable procurement and targets will play a substantial role in driving renewable energy to greater and greater heights.
Why renewables? Large companies use a lot of electricity
Major companies have long had corporate social responsibility or sustainability programs. However, the push to contract directly for renewable energy is decidedly a new phenomenon. In many cases, the primary reason to do so is one key realization for today’s largest companies: growth means increased electricity use.
Many of the largest companies in the world–from Amazon to Apple to Google to Facebook–grow by increasing the amount of data centers they have to power their networks. These data centers consume massive amounts of electricity, leaving corporations with a dilemma: how can a company continue to grow and still meet stated sustainability targets?
The quick answer: powering the new data centers with renewable resources.
Three methods of accessing renewable energy
For corporations, there are three key ways to fulfill sustainability targets. First, companies like Apple have taken steps to install solar panels at their headquarters to produce as much clean energy as possible on-site. Another great example of this approach is Tesla’s Gigafactory in Nevada, where the plan is to ultimately be able to run the entire facility off of clean solar energy produced (and stored) on-site.
The second approach is to buy renewable energy credits (RECs). RECs are a method of tracking the actual amount of electricity produced from renewable energy resources. By buying RECs, companies can effectively offset their own electricity consumption by purchasing an equivalent amount of electricity produced by renewable resources. Many of the 185 companies with 100% clean energy targets take this, or a similar, approach. In this case, while a company may be paying for enough RECs to cover 100% of their electricity needs, the actual electricity that the company consumes is still powered by their regular utility or grid, and not directly from renewable resources.
The third approach is to contract directly with renewable resource developers to build a solar or wind farm explicitly for your company. The best resource for tracking these types of deals is the Rocky Mountain Institute’s Business Renewable Center. In 2018, corporate renewable procurements spiked to over 6.5 gigawatts (million kilowatts) of renewable capacity, more than doubling the total for 2017. According to Wood Mackenzie’s “10 trends shaping the global solar market in 2019”, a quarter of all solar projects announced in 2018 were driven by corporate renewable procurement.
Case studies: tech companies walking the talk
There are a number of large companies leading the way for corporate renewable procurement:
Facebook exceeded all companies in renewable procurements in 2018, both in terms of the number of projects (22) as well as overall capacity (nearly 2 gigawatts). In fact, the amount of renewable energy capacity that Facebook procured in 2018 alone is more than the total amount of renewable energy that every company procured combined in 2016. The company met its goal for 50% renewable energy early and recently accelerated its efforts to power the whole company with 100% renewable energy by 2020. What’s more, Facebook publishes transparent data on their sustainability page, demonstrating their performance on energy and water consumption as well as carbon emissions.
Another company that has already hit a 50% renewable target with ambitions to continue to 100% renewable energy is Amazon. In order to power their data servers, Amazon has already procured energy from six solar farms and three wind projects, which combined produce enough electricity to power nearly two-hundred thousand homes. In fact, Amazon was one of the earliest movers in terms of corporate renewable procurement, procuring the most renewable capacity of any company in 2016 and the second most in 2015.
Apple announced in April 2018 that the company is globally powered by 100% renewable energy. From the 17-megawatt solar installation on Apple’s Cupertino headquarters to the 25 full-scale renewable projects that Apple has across the globe, the company’s action to meet its electricity demand exclusively with renewable resources has been robust and swift. Importantly, Apple’s commitment to renewable energy has had a trickle-down impact on their global suppliers, as 23 of their suppliers have committed to 100% renewable energy as well.
Finally, worldwide, Google was very clearly the first company out of the gate to procure renewable energy. By 2016, Google had already procured more than 2.5 gigawatts of combined wind and solar power, more than double the procurements of the next closest company. What’s more, Google is among the first companies to hit their target of 100% renewable energy, doing so over the course of 2017.
Power your own consumption with solar
Following the lead of these sustainability-committed companies, you too can cover all of your electricity needs with renewable energy. The easiest way to do so is to install solar panels on your property. Check out EnergySage’s free Solar Calculator to see how much you can save from solar. Ready to invest? Register for the EnergySage Marketplace to receive up to seven free solar quotes from local, pre-screened solar companies.