Corporate clean energy boosters RE100, RMI join forces

Rocky Mountain Institute

Corporate clean energy boosters RE100, RMI join forces

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Wind and solar are two promising areas for large-scale corporate investment in renewable energy.

We at the Rocky Mountain Institute's Business Renewables Center (BRC) are working together with RE100, led by The Climate Group in partnership with CDP, to accelerate the procurement of renewable energy by some of the world’s most influential companies.

The partnership aims to increase renewable demand (buyers), find renewable opportunities (developers and intermediaries), and provide the means to bridge the two through tools and knowledge.

Two approaches to purchasing corporate renewables 

The BRC and RE100 pursue complementary approaches to renewables procurement. More than 50 major businesses, including Google and Walmart, have set 100 percent renewables targets through RE100, working together to increase demand for renewable energy and accelerate the transition to a low-carbon economy.

This, coupled with the BRC’s transactional expertise in supporting corporations signing large wind and solar deals and thereby adding more renewable energy to the grid, means the partnership has the potential to provide a rocket boost to corporate renewables use globally. 

The Business Renewables Center was founded by Rocky Mountain Institute to help large companies make meaningful progress toward reaching their sustainability goals, however they define them.

"The overall goal of both RE100 and the BRC is increasing the penetration of renewable energy," said RMI managing director Hervé Touati. "A very small number of corporations led the way to show it is possible to have a determining role to increase the number of megawatts of wind and solar. It’s important that their learnings are shared." 

Most of those leading corporations are members, advisors, and sponsors of the BRC, which takes their learnings and makes them available to others. Publicly traded BRC members have a market capitalization in excess of $2 trillion.

With the new partnership, said Lily Donge, a principal at RMI and leader of the BRC, "companies set the target through RE100, and the BRC helps them reach the target."

"We are seeing more and more companies making a commitment to 100 percent renewable power and joining RE100," said Emily Farnworth, RE100 campaign director at the Climate Group. "By partnering with the BRC, we can ensure they are getting expert advice to help them deliver on those goals. By working together, we hope to accelerate learning and speed up the growth of new renewable energy projects."

Helping meet an enormous demand

Corporate renewable energy use is growing. RE100 companies are halfway to being entirely powered by renewable electricity, on average. However, many other companies that have set targets for procuring renewable energy have yet to act at scale. 

"In 2012, there were 200 megawatts of corporate renewable energy added, in 2013, 500 megawatts, in 2014, 1,200 megawatts, and for 2015 we’re talking about 3,200 megawatts, so this train is going really fast," said Touati. "The complication is that only 28 companies have contributed to this out of 500 Fortune 500 companies." 

Around 43 percent of the Fortune 500 companies have sustainability targets, as do myriad other large corporations. Together, RE100 and the BRC aim to make those targets concrete and realizable.

"Our objective is to take those 200 companies which have said they will do something on the sustainability front and bring them to commit, and second, to help them execute, to actually sign deals," said Touati. “We’re not trying to convince companies to suddenly be green. We’re trying to help companies that are trying to be green and support them to reach their goals, whatever those might be — including the 100 percent renewable power goals set through RE100."

Knowledge sharing

RE100 and BRC are running a series of joint webinars for RE100 and BRC members to enable the sharing of experiences and knowledge between major corporates. Previous topics have included power purchase agreements and China’s renewable energy market and policies. More recently, Bloomberg New Energy Finance provided insights on the global market.

"The combination of RE100’s ability to secure and showcase commitments and the support and expertise from the BRC will help corporations drive the penetration of renewable energy as never before," said RMI’s Donge. "By partnering, our collective reach is wider globally and deeper technically."

This is part of a growing trend in which corporations are taking the lead on tackling climate change. Corporations were a large part of the COP21 negotiations, providing important impetus to national governments and leading events such as those organized by the We Mean Business Coalition, of which The Climate Group is a member. 

Jules Kortenhorst, the CEO of Rocky Mountain Institute, said: "The role of business in confronting climate change has never been larger, and has never been more important. Each week we are seeing more and more corporations stepping up and taking real action to decarbonize our economy, not just because it is so important for our planet, but also because it makes good business sense to choose low-carbon strategies. I am excited to see the partnership of RE100 and the BRC. Together we will help corporations shift their energy to low carbon."

His words were echoed by those of Mark Kenber, CEO at The Climate Group: "The Paris Agreement is giving businesses the confidence to go further and faster when it comes to low-carbon investment. BRC expertise will help RE100 companies reach their 100 percent renewables goals, so we’re excited to be working in collaboration."

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