Corporate America’s Love Affair with Green Power More Than PR Fluff

by | Mar 21, 2007

A recent article asks, how much of recent corporate renewable energy annoucements are PR fluff?

“It’s 98 percent real and 2 percent PR,” Mike Eckhart, president of the American Council on Renewable Energy, says in the article.”The CEOs can’t just pay lip service anymore, the employees read the papers too.”

But it’s not just industry groups that are optimistic. “It’s absolutely no substitute for a federal renewable energy standard or a cap on carbon emissions,” said John Coequyt, an energy policy specialist at Greenpeace. “But it’s certainly a positive first step, and I think their commitment to climate change is pretty sincere at this point.”

In the case of big-box retail stores, with massive roof space and relatively little electricity use, installing solar power makes sense.

There have been many announcements recently concerning solar installations at retail companies. Costco has installed its second solar-powered energy system at its Lake Elsinore, California warehouse. Staples recently unveiled the largest solar power installation in New England at its 300,000-square-foot retail distribution center in Killingly, Connecticut. Tesco, the fourth-largest retail chain in the world, is installing a $13 million solar roof on its five-building, 820,400-square-foot distribution center under construction in Riverside, California. Wal-Mart is already using solar power in its experimental stores and the company put out an RFP to solar electric suppliers soliciting bids on what could amount to a solar installation on the order of 100 megawatts of power over the next five years.

For large scale industrial users, or firms with less room to actually generate power on site, paying someone else through renewable energy credits is another option. Yakima, Barclays, and Salesforce are just a few of the companies that have purchased offsets recently.

This year, for the first time, a corporation ­leads EPA’s national Top 25 list of green power purchasers. Wells Fargo & Company claimed the top spot, purchasing 550 million kilowatt hours annually.

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