In order to successfully transition to clean energy the focus needs to go beyond simply being carbon free and look at the impacts and benefits of addressing the social and environmental needs of such advancement, according to a new report.
The white paper by LevelTen Energy, The Nature Conservancy and the National Audubon Society says that with the size and scope needed to build out renewable energy projects to achieve net zero emissions by 2050, businesses and investors play an integral role in establishing such benefits. The report suggests they focus on “3C’s” into the renewable energy development process, which include community, conservation and climate.
The report says traditionally development is made with a focus on financial value and risk but that could lead to missed opportunities beyond such viability. It says by focusing on these areas while building renewable energy projects and considering future growing markets such as distributed energy generation, storage and offshore developments, within project goals and corporate values can provide greater return.
Creating standards and transparency in these areas can also be beneficial and optimize the impact of the projects and lower costs, according to the report.
For community alone, as clean energy projects soar and the need for capacity increases, the paper says in the United States wind and solar projects could provide nearly $11 billion in tax and land lease revenue. Renewable energy projects can also provide air and water quality benefits.
The report says that all renewable energy projects bring significant climate benefits, but the positive impact can grow through where a project is located. It says a project that is developed within a grid where fossil fuel generation is currently more prevalent can bring greater decarbonization impacts than if they are developed in already stable areas.
Projects can be developed, for example, on closed mines, landfills and former industrial areas. That also reduces the chances of impacting natural and agricultural areas, which can maximize the potential for carbon reduction, the report says.
Such development has been looked at regarding other sustainability issues, such as Saint-Gobain building a facility at a former superfund site in Florida.
As far as conservation, environmental impact assessments are already a standard part of renewable energy development. Although as the pace of those projects increases, leaders can begin environmental assessments sooner and work with government agencies to help maintain natural areas.
This area of focus could see growth in the future as topics like the cost of natural capital become more of a factor in production of goods.