Under one roof: How companies can simplify renewable energy development

Photo courtesy of CMS Enterprises
CMS Enterprises owns and operates Delta Solar I and II, comprising the second largest solar array in Michigan and the largest with tracking. Delta Solar I and II began commercial operation in June and August.

This article is sponsored by CMS Enterprises.

The renewable energy development spectrum is complex. Whether it’s project financing, engineering and construction or procuring energy marketing services and securing power purchase agreements, large corporate and institutional customers need an ally.

Richard Mukhtar, president of CMS Enterprises, has developed and operated utility-scale power projects responsibly for 25 years. He recently shared his perspective about how providing energy products and services under one roof helps large businesses and institutions avoid unnecessary headaches and costs and maximize return on renewable energy investments.

Brian Barthelmes: How complex is the wind and solar development spectrum?

Richard Mukhtar: Solar panels and wind turbines are important. But they’re one piece of a complex puzzle. Getting the panels and turbines to work for you means understanding how they help meet your sustainability and business goals — now and in the long run.

CMS Enterprises facilitates a big-picture approach. We look at what’s required before, during and after the project to bring long-term value. Considerations include project and balance sheet financing; power purchase agreements; completing the project safely, on time and on budget; capturing applicable tax incentives; energy product and service marketing to power projects anywhere; and owning and operating the project for 30 years or even longer.

Renewable energy projects are among the biggest investments most large businesses and institutions undertake. Many companies feel compelled to engage and manage subcontractors to support projects, but the process is extremely daunting for most. Accessing and managing the entire spectrum under one roof brings peace of mind to customers and enables them to stay focused on their core business.

Barthelmes: How high is market demand for wind and solar development services under one roof?

Mukhtar: As of fall 2018, nearly 80 large companies — including Google, Amazon, LinkedIn, Dell and Procter & Gamble— have developed and signed Corporate Renewable Energy Buyers’ Principles (PDF), facilitated by the Renewable Energy Buyers Alliance (REBA) and the World Wildlife Fund (WWF). At their core, each of the six principles comprise these companies’ requests for easier, simpler access to renewable energy.

Among the principles is "increased access to third-party financing vehicles as well as standardized and simplified processes, contracts and financing for renewable energy projects." Specifically, the principle advocates for improving access to power purchase agreements and other financing tools, along with simplified permitting and incentives, to help remove cost and complexity from renewable energy procurement.

Photo courtesy of CMS Enterprises
Owned and operated by CMS Enterprises, the 105-megawatt (MWAC) Northwest Ohio Wind project is on 10,000 acres in Ohio’s Paulding County, near Haviland.

Barthelmes: What unique value does in-house energy product and service marketing offer large customers?

Mukhtar: CMS Enterprises’ in-house Energy Resource Management (ERM) group markets energy products from our existing portfolio. That means we can access the energy products our customers need anywhere in the United States. Gone are the days when your renewable energy development ally had to be in your area.

By acting as your wholesale energy market participant, an in-house energy product and service marketing team can manage price risks and settle energy products for large customers and enable flexibility to locate wind and solar projects anywhere. In-house energy marketing teams leverage relationships with the largest natural gas and power marketers such as the Midcontinent Independent System Operator (MISO) and PJM Interconnection to help customers power their growth. The best energy marketing teams also manage all types of renewable energy credits, or RECs, in various markets to help customers substantiate renewable energy use claims and maximize the project's value to all stakeholders.

From managing generation interconnection studies and agreements to developing marketing power purchase agreements, in-house energy marketing offers technical expertise to keep large customers focused on what really matters.

Barthelmes: What’s your best advice to large businesses and institutions tackling renewable energy development for the first time?

Mukhtar: Large businesses and institutions are setting more aggressive sustainability and renewable energy goals than ever. When considering a renewable energy project, ask prospective developer-owner-operators how they can remove cost, complexity and risk from a project; function as the expert that puts safety and operational excellence first; continue to serve as the customer grows and opens new locations.

Above all, select a utility-scale renewable energy developer-owner-operator that brings holistic value —beyond wind turbine blades and solar panels — before, during and after a project’s construction.