Mar 28, 2019 - Energy & Environment

Google, Facebook and others look to mainstream corporate renewables

In this illustration, solar panels are designed to look like 100 dollar bills.

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Google, Facebook, Walmart and other corporate giants have launched a new trade association with hundreds of members aimed at greatly expanding direct renewable power purchases by companies large and small.

Why it matters: The Renewable Energy Buyers Alliance is a sign of both the mainstreaming of corporate procurement and a recognition that companies face market barriers, even as wind and solar costs have fallen.

Other companies involved include General Motors, Johnson & Johnson, First Solar, Salesforce, and Citi.

  • Overall, hundreds of companies — spanning energy buyers, renewable power developers and service companies — are taking part, the announcement states.

The big picture: The group hopes to collectively bring more than 60 gigawatts of new renewable capacity online by 2025.

  • That's a lot! As CNBC's Tom DiChristopher points out, that's nearly equal to the total amount of U.S. solar photovoltaic capacity of 64 GW at the end of 2018.
  • Last year saw roughly 6.5 GW added via new corporate renewables deals, according to the nonprofit Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI).

How it works: The group will provide members with technical assistance, education, data and more to help navigate the complexities of renewables procurement.

  • But at the same time, they hope to push for ways to remove friction from the market, not just help companies overcome it.
  • "The barrier to growth is access, not cost, and that needs to change," Michael Terrell, Google's head of energy market strategy, tells Axios.
  • The group will have the ability to lobby at the state and federal level, but has not yet unveiled its policy agenda.

Where it stands: A bunch of companies including Big Tech have been scaling up renewables procurement in recent years.

  • The new effort is aimed at making it a far wider corporate practice, in part by helping the big companies that have been at the forefront of renewables procurement share their expertise.

Between the lines: Terrell says every company — whether a bakery or a big box retailer — "should have a direct and easy path to buying clean energy."

  • He calls it part of tackling climate change. “We need to be giving every buyer who wants to be clean the opportunity to do that,” Terrell adds.

Flashback: The group has its origins in a partnership developed between RMI, World Wildlife Fund, World Resources Institute, and Business for Social Responsibility several years ago.

  • "The new REBA will be a larger, better-resourced organization than when it was simply a collection of separate programs," RMI spokesperson Nick Steel said in an email.

Go deeper: The corporate renewables surge

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