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Salesforce, Hilton SF commit to renewables — and to easier power purchase deals

A slew of San Francisco companies have committed to buying renewable power, but they're also working to make those power purchases less complicated.

Salesforce and Hilton San Francisco Union Square joined Arup, Autodesk and Genentech last week in taking a step towards a cleaner economy by jointly signing on to the Corporate Renewable Energy Buyers’ Principles.

We chose to sign on together because all of our companies have been collaborating through the San Francisco Business Council on Climate Change to drive forward the ideas laid out in the Buyers’ Principles on a local level. (Hilton Worldwide signed the Buyers Principles but only Hilton San Francisco Union Square is a member of the San Francisco Business Council on Climate Change.)

We’re calling for change across the U.S. energy sector. We’re also working together to pilot and model that change in San Francisco.

The Renewable Energy Buyers’ Principles, facilitated by the World Wildlife Fund and World Resources Institute, lay out what corporations want from utilities, renewable energy providers and policymakers to make buying renewable energy simpler, more accessible and cost-competitive.

Digital Realty, Hilton Worldwide, Kaiser Permanente, Workday and Yahoo also joined the principles this week, bringing the total to 34 corporate signatories, representing 20 million megawatt hours of annual renewable energy demand — enough energy to power about 2 million American homes a year.

The question at this point is not whether businesses want to power their operations with renewable energy, but how we get there and how fast. We are making progress. Last year, corporations signed 10 percent of utility-scale power purchase agreements (PPAs); in the first quarter alone of 2015, companies signed 25 percent of utility-scale PPAs.

Yet the complexity and time required to execute these transactions limits the scale and speed at which companies can deploy renewable energy.

Most signatories to the Buyers’ Principles want access to renewable energy across the U.S. and globally. For example, Salesforce has committed to eventually powering 100 percent of our data centers globally with renewable energy. 

To meet the renewable energy goals of all the signatories, we need to overcome significant challenges and we’re inviting our utilities to collaborate with us towards a solution. Utilities have the expertise and resources to deploy renewable energy cost-effectively at the scale we need.

While we think globally, we also have to act locally. Last year we joined a group of 15 other large Bay Area companies participating in the San Francisco Business Council on Climate Change’s Energy and Carbon Leadership Group (ECLG).

The companies participating in the ECLG are collaborating to accelerate progress on their energy goals, while also taking a leadership role in helping San Francisco reach its ambitious, community-wide 100 percent renewable energy goal.

In a city known both for innovation and championing moral causes, we want to help show the rest of the world what’s possible on energy and climate action. The companies in the ECLG are developing initiatives that aggregate our advocacy, expertise and demand for a cleaner energy system.

 The business world can play a critical role in speeding the transition to a more sustainable economy, but it will require working together. We invite fellow companies to join initiatives such as the Buyers’ Principles that bring corporate voices and our purchasing power together to accelerate the positive shifts in our energy system toward a renewably powered future.

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