Power Your Company with 100% Renewable Energy

Power Your Company with 100% Renewable Energy

By 2030 it will be cheaper to choose wind and solar than coal and gas in most parts of the world, making the decision to go entirely renewable more feasible. Here’s how your company can prepare.
An acre or more of solar arrays like these are noticeable proof of a company’s environmental commitment – and can be more powerful than an ad on a billboard. Photograph: Stuart Meade

An acre or more of solar arrays like these are noticeable proof of a company’s environmental commitment – and can be more powerful than an ad on a billboard. Photograph: Stuart Meade

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Wednesday, April 27, 2016 - 1:35pm

CAMPAIGN: GM Energy Efficiency

CONTENT: Article

As it becomes ever more urgent to preserve the environment, a growing number of businesses are prioritizing sustainability. More than 50 companies around the world have pledged to work toward using 100% renewable energy to power their operations. Big technology corporations and traditional consumer brands alike are on their way to a low carbon footprint by turning to renewables to keep the lights on.

With more companies getting on board for a greener grid, the market for renewables is rising to match – albeit slowly in some US states. Congress voted to extend tax credits for wind and solar for another five years, keeping prices down and spurring an anticipated additional 20 gigawatts of solar energy and 19 gigawatts of wind energy.

report from the US Department of Energy, written by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, found that prices for wind projects averaged less than 2.5 cents per kilowatt hour for utility purchasers. Prices for green energy are lower than ever, and are predicted to become even more cost competitive.

According to analysis by Bloomberg New Energy Finance, by 2030 it will be cheaper to choose wind and solar than coal and gas in most parts of the world. This makes the decision to go entirely renewable more feasible, and will also secure lower prices in the future.

Here’s how your company can go all in.

Reduce energy profile

The first step to using only green energy is to look for ways to reduce your current energy profile. Energy efficiency and renewable energy are equally key: remove excess usage, then use green power for what’s left. Some ways to do this are to upgrade to efficient lighting, repair broken equipment, and use natural processes to heat and cool spaces like data centers.

Find a partner

Once use is down to the bare bones, an energy management company can partner with businesses to help them develop large solar, wind, landfill gas-to-energy and other projects. These help buyers control energy costs while achieving environmental goals. Energy management companies have established relationships with developers and can help analyze risks.

Look inside

Leverage your own company’s expertise at your facilities – odds are that you have electrical and mechanical engineers onsite. Use those internal resources to build a project to keep reducing cost. It’s also important to look at other business benefits beyond a long-term, stable energy supply.

For example, consider the education and visibility opportunities of an acre of solar arrays. That becomes noticeable proof to environmental commitment – and can be more powerful than an ad on a billboard. Seek legal and accounting input from your team, which can help with the technical financial nuances of a deal, such as tax equities, the impact of embedded derivatives and the creation of hedges against rising costs.

Don’t discount the discounts

Maximize state and federal renewable energy incentives, and also find what rebates and incentives are available in your region. Overlay where the incentives are and where you get the biggest bang for your buck, and then build the financial model around these. If you have a lot of empty parking spaces or a big rooftop in that area, it could be a match.

Support collaboration

Nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) are helping to set the framework for a renewable future. The World Wildlife Fund and World Resources Institute developed a set of Corporate Renewable Energy Buyers’ Principles to frame the challenges and needs of large renewable energy buyers.

General Motors was one of the original 12 signatories of the principles. That group has since expanded to 43 companies looking for easier ways to buy and invest in renewables. The message to renewable energy producers is clear: there is an unmet market demand. The principles call for greater choices in procurement, contract terms and financing, as well as more access to cost competitive options.

Diversify energy options

Some are still wary that an all-renewable portfolio will prove unreliable. But with diverse energy options including wind, solar, hydroelectricity, landfill gas and battery storage, a flexible, smart-grid design will keep the lights on.

Landfills will produce high levels of methane gas until we stop filling them. Solar arrays collect energy even when the sun isn’t shining. Upgrades to wind turbines continue to improve capacity. And secondary uses for electric car batteries present new opportunities for storing surplus renewable energy. As computers, thermostats and vehicles become more energy efficient, organizations using 100% renewables may be able to leave some of their green energy on the grid – allowing others to scoop it up for their own use.

Communities that house green energy businesses benefit from their lower carbon footprint, and can use their excess power. Although it will take more time – and new policies – before a significant number of companies meet targets of 100% renewable energy, even the largest corporations can now get on a green circuit.

This content is paid for by General Motors