4 factors to energize a corporate renewable energy program

This article is sponsored by ScottMadden.

The private sector is increasingly turning to renewable energy to achieve corporate sustainability goals. In order to accomplish this successfully, these companies depend on a clear corporate renewable energy program. Companies can take different approaches to achieve these goals, including renewable energy certificates (RECs), power purchase agreements (PPAs) and others. While these goals and their requisite procurement approaches can be complex, ScottMadden has identified four key factors that make up a successful corporate renewable energy program:

  • A plan that aligns a company’s renewable goal and strategy with its business strategies
  • Consistent execution and attention to all facets of the renewable strategy
  • Pre-determined reporting metrics
  • Internal and external integration throughout business operations

These four factors create the underlying framework that supports corporate clean energy goals and the various approaches to achieve them. The program will be iterative, and companies should refine each factor throughout the process. A well-planned and carefully executed renewable energy program can help companies achieve long-term energy goals.

Figure 1: Four Factors for a Successful Corporate Renewable Energy Program

Planning

The planning stage includes aligning a company’s renewable energy goal and strategy with its overall business strategy. A well-executed plan will account for the extended timeframe associated with renewable energy strategies (contract terms of up to 25 years), help define the company’s renewable energy goal, and outline key approaches to achieve it. Key considerations include:

  • Renewable energy goal: The renewable goal must align with the overall business strategy. Goal setting should be informed by current energy usage and usage profile, as well as long-term changes, such as future energy efficiency measures, site exits and anticipated growth and acquisitions.
  • Renewable energy strategy: Goals can be met through a variety of strategies, each of which will impact a company’s operational strategy and financial reporting. Companies must determine their strategies prior to executing the renewable energy program. Table 1 describes several types of renewable energy strategies and considerations.

  • Financial risk: If a company is considering on-site generation or a PPA, it should prepare a long-term financial model that includes a pricing forecast and weighted average cost of capital projection. Assessing financial risk throughout the contract will help companies align their investment with their financial strategy. 

Execution

Execution includes evaluating, monitoring and maintaining all facets of the corporate renewable strategy. Companies interested in corporate renewable PPAs or other approaches need to assess all aspects of the agreement, including the purchase price, the RFP process and ancillary components. Key considerations include:

  • Financial models: Companies should create new financial models that incorporate all aspects of renewable procurement, including incentives and any power sales cost. Financial models should project out for the entire length of the renewable energy procurement approach.
  • RFP process: An RFP process will be important for any renewable energy purchase. The process is especially important for corporate renewable PPAs, as the transaction will be markedly different from purchasing traditional energy.
  • Transmission and interconnection: With a corporate renewable PPA, the buyer must understand where the renewable energy project will interconnect in order to evaluate basis risk and transmission costs (wheeling and congestions fees).

Reporting

Corporations and stakeholders are equally interested in a company’s progress toward its renewable energy goals. Companies should plan to report and re-evaluate metrics throughout strategy implementation and incorporate them into the procurement approach. Key considerations include:

  • Reporting frameworks: Companies should select the reporting framework and metrics prior to strategy implementation. A clear reporting structure will help ensure that metrics are communicated effectively and integrated into the corporate brand.
  • Auditors: Auditors can help streamline the negotiation process and ensure the company receives the proper certifications for renewable energy purchases.
  • Corporate sustainability goals: Renewable energy attributes, such as additionality and locality, are important in assessing a company’s overall sustainability portfolio. Additionality addresses whether the project would have occurred without the corporation’s participation. There is some debate on how precisely to measure additionality, but an auditor can confirm a corporation’s contribution to additionality. Locality focuses on the location of renewable energy production. For example, a company consuming electricity in northern California needs to demonstrate that it is also adding renewable energy to the grid in northern California.

Integration

Integration includes incorporating the renewable energy strategy throughout business operations. This will help align renewable energy goals with internal and external business processes. Key considerations include:

  • Timing: A large-scale, long-term renewable energy purchase requires internal planning prior to the purchase agreement, and companies should engage stakeholders at the correct time in the process. For example, including stakeholders in the planning process before a PPA is fully defined can lead to an abrupt end to the project. Conversely, waiting too long can lead to internal discord. Recognizing the potential interests of each stakeholder group early in the process can help generate buy-in from corporate teams.
  • Executive sponsor: Securing an executive sponsor for the renewable energy program will help maintain momentum and corporate support.
  • Level of engagement: Effective internal marketing requires a multi-pronged outreach approach with various degrees of stakeholder action. For example, the board of directors or sales team likely will not have actionable tasks, but they would need to participate in a corporate renewable PPA planning process in order to support and market the purchase agreement. Other teams will be more directly impacted. Procurement and legal divisions likely will contribute a significant amount of time during the review process, and companies should engage these teams early.

Table 2 illustrates this complexity and lists potential roles each team may play in the development of a corporate renewable PPA.
  • External opportunities: Planning joint press releases with the renewable energy developer is an effective marketing strategy, but they should be planned in concert with other corporate press releases. 

A renewed strategy

As companies increasingly turn to renewable energy, they are faced with the need to design and implement an overall program that suits their needs. Renewable energy programs require a comprehensive, iterative process. Companies should be prepared to refine their corporate plans, deliberately execute their renewable energy program, diligently report metrics and purposefully integrate the renewable energy strategy into their corporate operations. Incorporating these four factors can help transform complex energy problems into achievable, sustainable solutions.

Additional Resources

For a deeper dive, be sure to access the expanded article, “Powering On: Four Factors to Energize a Corporate Renewable Energy Program.”

About ScottMadden

ScottMadden is the management consulting firm that does what it takes to get it done right. Our practice areas include energy, clean tech and sustainability, corporate and shared services, grid transformation and rates, regulation and planning. We deliver a broad array of consulting services ranging from strategic planning through implementation across many industries, business units and functions.

About ScottMadden's Clean Tech & Sustainability Practice

Leveraging our energy expertise, the ScottMadden cleantech and sustainability practice helps our clients effectively navigate through the quickly changing energy landscape. We specialize in assisting our clients with sustainable energy strategies and making smart portfolio choices. We work with our clients to understand and effectively use cleaner, renewable sources of energy, such as wind, solar, bioenergy and nuclear. Our experienced team of energy practitioners understands the roles of energy efficiency, demand response and storage as part of an integrated strategy. We also assist clients with sustainability, bringing an understanding of energy-unique concerns.