Corporate renewable deals in 2018 add up to more than 6 GW, dwarfing the 0.32 GW total from just five years ago. The list of companies procuring solar and wind energy this year includes the usual tech behemoths as well as newcomers from other sectors, according to the Business Renewables Center’s Deal Tracker.
The Business Renewables Center, a member-based Rocky Mountain Institute initiative, actively tracks new corporate renewable energy contracts as they are announced. All the corporate deals tracked so far have been wind and solar, except for one biomass project in 2015. Last year, 31 renewable energy contracts added up to a 2.78-GW capacity. In 2018 through December 13, there were 73 contracts that totaled 6.33 GW.
Kevin Haley, program manager at the Business Renewables Center, told Energy Manager Today that there are three main reasons for the increase in renewable deals and total capacity this year: sustainability goals, standardized procurement process, and deal economics.
“With 2020 approaching, many companies have sustainability targets they need to hit by that time,” Haley said. “Large-scale renewables purchases are an effective way to reduce carbon emissions at scale, and the timeline to complete a deal means that 2018 and 2019 are important dates in the run up to any 2020 commitments that companies have made publicly.”
Based on the current BRC Deal Tracker, here are the corporations that made some of the biggest deals:
The BRC found that the social media giant signed 20 renewable contracts totaling 1,894.5 MW in 2018, which tops all the corporate deals the BRC tracked in 2016 put together. Those deals included a power purchase agreement with Enel Green Power North America in March for energy from Enel’s planned 320 MW Rattlesnake Creek wind farm in Nebraska.
In late August, Facebook committed to powering their global operations with 100% renewable energy by the end of 2020. From 2013 until the time of that announcement, the company says it had signed contracts for over 3 gigawatts of new solar and wind energy.
AT&T comes in second after Facebook on the BRC Deal Tracker with four major PPAs in 2018. In February, the telecommunications company inked deals to purchase 520 megawatts of wind power from two NextEra Energy Resources subsidiaries. That massive procurement was followed by another contract with NextEra in June for an additional 300 MW of wind energy from two new wind farm projects in Texas.
The company’s commitments to purchasing 820 MW of wind energy should offset 22% of AT&T’s current electricity consumption, Joe Taylor, VP of global tech optimization and implementation at AT&T, told Energy Manager Today in June.
“We’ve made initial investments in wind energy because it is a clean, abundant, home-grown source of energy that delivers significant environmental and economic benefits,” Taylor said.
Walmart also ranked near the top with 533 MW. The retailer, which aims to be powered by 100% renewable energy, started the year by announcing that one of Alabama’s largest solar facilities, called Alabama Solar A, would provide power to the company.
Project Gigaton, Walmart’s program with suppliers to reduce emissions from the company’s global value chain by one billion metric tons by 2030, launched in April 2017. The company plans to reach that goal through a combination of renewable energy sourcing and operational efficiencies.
In the fall, Walmart and SunPower signed a PPA to install solar systems at 19 stores in Illinois. “Solar is a vital component of Walmart’s expanding renewable energy portfolio,” said Mark Vanderhelm, vice president of energy for Walmart, Inc.
ExxonMobil’s two 2018 renewable deals — for a total of 500 MW — happened late in the year. “Traditionally, the fourth quarter has been the largest quarter for announced deals in each of the past five years,” Haley said before the December BRC Deal Tracker was published.
Indeed, ExxonMobil jumped into the top five with two deals to power operations at its Permian oil field in Texas with 250 MW of wind energy and 250 MW of solar, John Parnell, head of content for Solar Media, wrote in Forbes last month.
Oil majors worldwide are ramping up their investments in renewables, although Exxon had been slower than others to move on commercialized technologies, Greentech Media’s Emma Foeringer Merchant noted over the summer.
“The irony of Exxon’s 500 MW renewable energy procurement being used directly to extract Texan oil reserves will not be lost on its critics,” Parnell wrote.
Microsoft has been a constant presence in the BRC Deal Tracker over the years, and this time is no different with a total of 405 MW for the year.
In March, the tech giant added 315 megawatts of new solar power in Virginia through two new projects owned and operated by sPower. It was the largest corporate solar agreement in the United States at that point, Microsoft said.
That same month, the company signed a deal to purchase 100% of the output from Sunseap Group’s 60-MW solar project in Singapore to power Microsoft’s data centers. “We’re on track to exceed our goal of powering 50% of our global datacenter load with renewable energy this year,” said Christian Belady, general manager for cloud infrastructure strategy and architecture at Microsoft. “Once operational, the new solar project will bring Microsoft’s total global direct procurement in renewable energy projects to 860 megawatts.”
The procurement process is better known, more standardized, and there are more options available to corporates than ever, BRC’s Haley said. “Buyers are becoming more savvy at reducing their risks in the transaction process, and more resources are available to educate corporate leadership on the benefits of these deals.”
Even a glance at the latest BRC Deal Tracker underscores that shift. Besides the usual tech giants like Apple and Google, a remarkably diverse group of companies made renewable deals this year. They included Kohler, JM Smucker Company, Nike, Etsy, Salesforce, Fifth Third, Nestlé, Ingersoll Rand, and Kaiser Permanente.
In most of the country, wind and solar cost less than power from coal and in many places renewables are becoming competitive with natural gas, Haley added. “Simply put, it’s increasingly easy to justify the cost of a renewable energy deal in relationship to business-as-usual energy purchasing.”
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