Monday, May 23, 2016

Tech Giants Lead Campaign to Bring Renewables to Reluctant States

When the news hits that a company has bought into a monster renewable energy project, chances are that company is the likes of Facebook, Microsoft or Google.  Now those tech darlings are using a new vehicle to encourage other companies to do the same -- especially in places where coal power reigns supreme, like South Carolina or Kentucky.

Representatives from these tech firms were headline speakers at a meeting late last week of the Renewable Energy Buyers Alliance (REBA), a new but fast-growing group that intends to make direct purchase of clean power easier for humbler sorts of firms, like hoteliers, clothiers and aluminum manufacturers.

The agenda of the meeting, held at Microsoft Corp.'s headquarters [in Redmond WA], didn't specifically encourage companies to locate their projects in utility service territories where the conversation about renewables is uncomfortable.  Speakers said that costs matter, as does the public relations value of siting a project nearby.

But another message was unmistakable:  If companies want their clean-energy purchases to tip the scales against climate change, they ought to use their pocketbooks to sway utilities and states that aren't much interested.
REBA's goal is to help businesses procure 60 gigawatts of renewable electricity by 2025.  Its backbone is a partnership among four nonprofit organizations -- the World Wildlife Fund, the World Resources Institute, the Rocky Mountain Institute and Business for Social Responsibility -- that combined their efforts to increase business adoption of renewable power.  On its own, REBA has neither staff nor budget.
Prepping for clean energy's second wave
REBA seeks to address the problems encountered by companies whose circumstances don't resemble that of a Microsoft, Inc. or Apple Inc.  The tech giants share three characteristics that motivated them to be first movers:  their massive data centers make them prodigious users of electricity, their fame and cutting-edge reputation mean that ignoring climate change is not an option, and their size and profitability make it easier for them to buy an entire wind or solar farm and get the output at wholesale prices.

Much regulatory complexity awaits the second wave of smaller companies that would like to buy directly into a clean-energy project, or larger companies that want to start by dipping a toe.

According to figures shared at the meeting, 60 percent of Fortune 100 companies have publicly stated goals related to greenhouse gases, renewable energy or energy efficiency.  So have 43 percent of the Fortune 500.  But those numbers drop off precipitously the smaller a company gets.

While a thicket of rules and impediments make it hard to close a renewable energy deal anywhere, in some states it's harder than in others.  Several states forbid or restrict third-party power purchase agreements, including North Carolina, Kentucky, Oklahoma and Florida, according to REBA.

One way to make it easier, speakers said, is to engage in collective bargaining, where, for example, three companies that each want 5 MW of solar or wind power join forces to ask their utility for a 15 MW project.  REBA wants to make those connections.

Read more at Tech Giants Lead Campaign to Bring Renewables to Reluctant States

No comments:

Post a Comment