Big business gets organized in its call for clean energy

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Renewable energy provides multiple benefits. Besides the obvious decarbonization, at a large scale solar and wind are now cheaper than other forms of power, as well as providing electricity at a stable, predictable price as there is no fluctuation from fuel costs.

Led by Google, Apple and other tech giants, for a number of years corporations have sought to take advantage of all three of these characteristics by contracting with large-scale renewable energy projects. These efforts have gotten more and more sophisticated over time, and along the way utilities have been forced to either accommodate the desire of corporations for renewables, or at times have had these companies go their own way.

And today, the corporate will for renewable energy just got a lot more organized. Led by some of the biggest buyers of renewable energy to date – Google, Facebook and Walmart among them – a group of over 200 companies have come together under the rubric of the Renewable Energy Buyers Alliance (REBA), a tax-exempt non-profit trade organization.

REBA was originally founded by four non-profits – Rocky Mountain Institute, World Wildlife Fund, World Resources Institute and Businesses for Social Responsibility – in 2014. However, today it is re-launching with its new, very large members, which also include General Motors and First Solar. In a press release, REBA notes that its leadership circle alone represents $1 trillion in annual revenues, and more than 1% of U.S. electricity consumption.

Miranda Ballentine will serve as the organization’s CEO, and executive board members include representatives from these five aforementioned companies.

 

Access

So what does REBA want? More access to renewable energy. “Every enterprise—whether it’s a bakery, a big-box retailer, or a data center—should have an easy and direct path to buy clean energy,” states Michael Terrell, head of energy market strategy at Google, and REBA’s first board chair. “Ultimately, sourcing clean energy should be as simple as clicking a button.”

Kevin Haley, REBA’s director of member value and engagement, expanded on this for pv magazine:

Right now, businesses and other large institutional buyers like universities tend to lack “off the shelf” purchasing options for renewable energy. In the regulated energy markets, they must rely on a utility company to provide them with a procurement solution (e.g. green tariff). These are relatively few and far between and must undergo a complicated regulatory approval process—not ideal for companies looking to fulfill a business-wide renewables goal.

Haley notes that in deregulated markets purchases are more straightforward, but he notes that they are still dependent on a “deal-by-deal negotiation process”, and complains of “less-than-ideal terms and conditions” in terms of making sure that such projects can access wholesale power markets.

Ultimately, Haley says that REBA’s vision is for an energy system “that lets companies buy renewable power when and where they want it.” And while he says that the organization does not yet have a detailed platform that they are making public and is still working with its members on priorities, he does state that this will involve overcoming policy and regulatory barriers as well as tackling market design issues.

 

60 GW is just the beginning

REBA has set a concrete goal for its members to collectively bring online an additional 60 GW of renewable energy by 2025. If its members get even close to this, it will significantly expand the amount of wind and solar which analysts expect to be deployed by that date.

And the trade group may still get larger yet, as it notes that membership is available to any nonresidential energy buyer, as well as clean energy developers and other service providers which are “committed to carbon-free energy”.

The organization plans to not only advocate for policies, but also to conduct research and provide data and communications services to its members, as well as providing educational programs, tools and training for companies to buy clean energy at scale.

REBA also has a two-minute video on Vimeo that explains what it is all about.

 

Update: This article was modified on March 29 at 8:20 AM EST to include commentary by Kevin Haley.