The Business Sense of Doing Good

The Google logo is spelled out in heliostats (mirrors that track the sun and reflect the sunlight onto a central receiving point) during a tour of the Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System in the Mojave Desert near the California-Nevada border February 13, 2014. The project, a partnership of NRG, BrightSource, Google and Bechtel, is the world’s largest solar thermal facility and uses 347,000 sun-facing mirrors to produce 392 Megawatts of electricity, enough energy to power more than 140,000 homes. Photograph: Steve Marcus/Reuters

The often maligned Calvin Coolidge quote the “Business of America is Business” takes on a positive note when we consider that in the current political climate many corporations are stepping up where the federal administration falls short.

American companies are still investing in renewable energy

After the November elections, many of us in the climate and energy fields were rightfully fearful. What would happen to international agreements to cut greenhouse gases? What would happen to funding for climate research? What would happen to the green energy revolution?

In most instances, Trump is worse than we could have imagined. But in one special area, the president may not matter. That is in the growth of corporate purchasing of renewable energy. It turns out there are factors that even he cannot stop that make choosing renewable energy an easy decision for many companies.

New evidence about the unstoppable renewable energy wave recently came out in a report that was released by Apex Clean Energy and the GreenBiz Group. These groups surveyed corporations to determine their future plans on renewable energy installation and adoption. They wanted to know whether these plans had changed in the past few years and what motivated their decisions to implement renewable energy strategies. The outcome of this survey is available here for people who want to read the entire document.

The groups surveyed 153 major corporations (both public and private), whose combined revenue was in excess of $250 million. Among these companies, 84% are “actively pursuing or considering purchasing renewable energy over the next 5-10 years.” Surprisingly, they found that 43% of the corporations intend to be more aggressive in their pursuit of renewable energy in the next two years. 87% of those actively pursuing renewable energy purchases stated that the election had no impact on their decision.

In fact, 11% were more inclined to purchase renewable energy.Most surprising to me was that of the 128 companies that are actively pursuing or considering purchase of renewable energy over the next two years, all but 1 responded that they were “positive about either continuing forward or becoming more aggressive in their attempts to pursue renewables.”

A really important part of the survey addressed what motivated the companies as they made decisions to pursue renewables. Also, the report identified the factors that make companies successful in their pursuit. In terms of motivation to actually purchase renewables, 65% of the corporations report that energy price was the leading criteria. So sure, companies want to do the right thing, they want to create a healthier planet to hand off to future generations; they want to improve their public image. But, the decision to implement clean energy has to be made when the economics are right. It turns out, these companies want a diversified energy portfolio (energy sources and geography). Bringing clean energy, especially wind and solar into their energy supply can be a hedge against rising and variable costs of fossil fuels.

The majority of these companies (57%) have renewable energy targets, and having such targets and champions within the corporation makes it much easier to follow through on renewable energy purchases. The main motivations for creating these targets in the first place were to address climate and emission goals and to demonstrate corporate leadership in their industry.

What this tells me is that while a majority of companies have aspirations to engage with clean energy, and while those aspirations are driven by corporate responsibility, it is the economics that convert aspirations to actions.

Read the entire piece here.

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