The growth in wind and solar energy over the past several years has been impressive, but the pace of change has been achingly slow for companies that want more renewable energy than the market can provide. With that in mind, 12 leading U.S. companies have partnered with the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and the World Resources Institute to make one thing perfectly clear: There is a huge, unmet renewable energy demand by businesses, and a change in energy markets will be required in order to meet that need.
The linchpin of the collaboration is a set of strategic guidelines called the Renewable Energy Buyers’ Principles. Most of the 12 companies that have signed on are familiar names at Triple Pundit for their proactive approach to renewable energy or other sustainability issues, including Bloomberg, Facebook, General Motors, Hewlett-Packard, Intel, Johnson & Johnson, Mars, Novelis, Procter and Gamble, REI, Sprint and Walmart.
That's just those 12 major companies, so 8.4 million is just for starters. These companies represent a noticeable level of interest in renewable energy among major business sectors in the U.S., including IT, media, retail (Ikea also comes to mind, though it is not headquartered in the U.S.) and manufacturing.
When you consider other sectors of the U.S. economy that are proactively adopting renewable energy, including professional sports, government agencies, and nonprofit stakeholders like religious organizations and academic institutions, you can see that the unmet renewable energy demand in the U.S. is astronomical.
As for why utilities have been acting so slowly, some have been acting much more quickly than others, but overall the problem is that the traditional, centralized model of power supply does not easily embrace the local, distributed sourcing that is a key attraction of renewable energy.
However, those obstacles are not set in stone, and once they start falling there will still be a need for a clear path toward a market that accommodates both renewable energy and advanced energy storage opportunities.
With that in mind, the Buyers' Principles (here's that link again) lays out six areas in need of change:
It's a good example of the collaborative, shared-platform model for sustainability progress that has been emerging as a global force. A large portion of the focus is on streamlining renewable energy procurement, which obviously benefits the big players, but it will also enable smaller consumers to jump into the market without having to reinvent the wheel.
Amy Hargroves of Sprint sums it up this way:
Very few companies have the knowledge and resources to purchase renewable energy given today’s very limited and complex options. Our hope is that by identifying the commonalities among large buyers, the principles will catalyze market changes that will help make renewables more affordable and accessible for all companies.
The Department of Defense initially began installing large-scale solar power plants on an individual, ad hoc basis at its facilities. The pace picked up considerably after 2012, when the Army established the Energy Initiatives Task Force to cover all of its opportunities for building utility-scale solar power plants, and combined it with the streamlined procurement process of the Army Corps of Engineers.
The over-arching goal, aside from greenhouse gas management, is to reduce DoD's dependence on grid-supplied energy.
Image courtesy of the World Wildlife Fund