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Wind turbines in Colorado City, Texas. Photo: Spencer Platt/Getty Images

U.S. businesses have started to accelerate reductions in their carbon footprints — a major change from just a few years ago, when only early adopters had drafted sustainability goals. Today, thousands of companies are seeking carbon-free energy sources, with more than 150 firms pledging to transition to 100% renewable energy.

The big picture: Renewable energy certificates (RECs) — which track renewable energy from the point of generation — have been crucial in driving this shift. Increasingly, electricity suppliers are offering ways for businesses to get their power from specific projects or sources, bringing transparency to renewable energy use.

How it works: Led by Apple and Google, big corporations have moved beyond REC procurements to virtual power purchase agreements (VPPAs), which support the development of large-scale, off-site renewable energy projects.

  • For all their positives, VPPAs are complicated financial transactions and their price volatility poses risks. (Companies pay an agreed-upon fixed price, but depending on the actual cost of energy over time, could end up paying more than market price.)

What's new: Electricity suppliers are now letting companies choose offsite renewable power sources and combine energy purchases with RECs, broadening the market.

  • Companies are able to procure more renewable energy at a lower cost, expanding the amount of renewable supply on the grid. They can oversee their green energy options the same way they’ve managed their standard electric supply.

Broadening sustainability efforts to include all zero-carbon sources, such as nuclear energy, is another way companies are meeting their environmental goals when space or capital are unavailable for on-site renewables.

  • New emission-free energy certificates are like RECs but for non-renewable sources that do not emit greenhouse gases.

The bottom line: Electricity suppliers are responding to growing customer demand for clean energy by offering simpler products that let businesses source power from specific offsite renewable projects and other zero-carbon sources.

Jim McHugh is the CEO of Constellation, an Exelon company.

Go deeper

2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Stalemate over filibuster freezes Congress

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Mitch McConnell's inability to quickly strike a deal on a power-sharing agreement in the new 50-50 Congress is slowing down everything from the confirmation of President Biden's nominees to Donald Trump's impeachment trial.

Why it matters: Whatever final stance Schumer takes on the stalemate, which largely comes down to Democrats wanting to use the legislative filibuster as leverage over Republicans, will be a signal of the level of hardball we should expect Democrats to play with Republicans in the new Senate.

Dave Lawler, author of World
2 hours ago - World

Biden opts for five-year extension of New START nuclear treaty with Russia

Putin at a military parade. Photo: Valya Egorshin/NurPhoto via Getty

President Biden will seek a five-year extension of the New START nuclear arms control pact with Russia before it expires on Feb. 5, senior officials told the Washington Post.

Why it matters: The 2010 treaty is the last remaining constraint on the arsenals of the world's two nuclear superpowers, limiting the number of deployed nuclear warheads and the bombers, missiles and submarines which can deliver them.

Updated 3 hours ago - Technology

Facebook refers Trump ban to independent Oversight Board for review

Photo: Alex Edelman/AFP via Getty Images

Facebook's independent Oversight Board has accepted a referral from the platform to review its decision to indefinitely suspend former President Trump.

Why it matters: While Trump critics largely praised the company's decision to remove the then-president's account for potential incitement of violence, many world leaders and free speech advocates pushed back on the decision, arguing it sets a dangerous precedent for free speech moving forward.