This article was adapted from Energy Weekly, a free newsletter about the clean energy transition.
I spend more time than your average bear tracking corporate renewable energy procurements. Renewables would not be where they are today were it not for corporate trailblazers that have spurred on deployments, driven down the cost of technologies and developed new contract models.
There is no organization doing more to support corporations procuring renewables than the Renewable Energy Buyers Alliance. I’ve been tracking the group's meteoric rise as the centralized resource for corporate energy buyers and one of the first trade associations for clean energy focused on buyers, rather than technologies. GreenBiz wrote about the initial formation of the association (back when it was but a collaboration between four NGOs), and we covered when it became its own standalone NGO.
This week, during the organization’s fall summit, the alliance entered a new phase: Henceforth, the Renewable Energy Buyers Alliance (REBA) will be known as the Clean Energy Buyers Alliance (CEBA).
What’s new with the new name?
The new name comes with a new organizational aspiration: a 90 percent carbon-free electrical system in the U.S. by 2030. This is an evolution of the organization’s previous goal, to catalyze 60 gigawatts of renewable energy by 2025.
The new focus reflects a more holistic approach to clean energy adoption. It’s no longer about the emissions associated with an individual organization’s energy use, it’s about driving a cleaner grid so every electricity end user — be it a factory or a home — is using carbon-free energy.
"Energy customers matter, and companies are recognizing the importance of thinking bigger and bolder than just our renewable energy deals. As we focus on a 90 percent carbon-free electricity system in the U.S., we see our community being a key climate action driver in the energy sector," Monica Jaburg, director of communications, marketing and PR for CEBA, shared in an email.
What will CEBA’s focus be?
According to CEBA’s press release, the organization will focus on three key transformations:
- Unlocking markets so that energy customers can use their buying power and market influence to accelerate electricity decarbonization.
- Catalyzing communities of energy customers to actively choose clean energy and to do more together than they could on their own.
- Decarbonizing the grid for all, because not every energy customer can or will use their buying power to choose clean energy.
This systems-level focus could open the door for CEBA to be a powerful business voice to support clean energy policy. Some of the world’s most iconic brands are CEBA members, including Google, General Motors, McDonald’s and Target, which could make a meaningful difference in policy negotiations.
If CEBA grows enough in influence, this holistic approach could provide an important balance to other business associations to which many of these same corporations also belong, such as the Business Roundtable, which are actively fighting climate legislation and the Build Back Better act.
Why does CEBA need a new name for that?
The rebrand from "renewable" to "clean" is intended to better encompass all the components needed for a carbon-free grid, according to an email from the organization.
While renewables — such as wind, solar, geothermal and hydro — will be an important part of cleaning the electrical grid, so will the enabling climate technologies that aren’t "renewable energy," including storage, software and data systems.
The era of clean energy associations
Two of the country’s most prominent clean energy trade groups — American Clean Power Association and the Energy Storage Association — announced they will merge in 2022.
Similarly, Clean Energy for America (CE4A), a group that works to engage and mobilize the millions of workers in the clean energy industry, is mobilizing to show support for clean energy policies. The group is working to elevate stories about clean energy jobs in support of the Build Back Better Act. (Full disclosure: I’m a volunteer for CE4A and think it’s tops.)
The maturation of these clean energy organizations tracks with the landmark year for U.S. climate policy and the increased global ambitions to decarbonize to avert the worst of climate change. And, if and when the Build Back Better Act passes, these organizations could be influential in how policies are enacted.
Frankly, given the well-developed expertise and financial resources of incumbent dirty energy interests, the increased efforts from the clean energy sector could not come a moment too late.