Renewable Energy Goes Corporate
The largest U.S. corporations are embracing renewable energy in a big way. The World Wildlife Foundation and other environmental organizations affirm this trend in the new Power Forward 3.0 study.
Nearly half (48 percent) of Fortune 500 firms have at least one clean energy target — up 5 percent from the last Power Forward report in 2014. These projects are also bolstering the bottom line: Businesses are realizing significant cost savings from emission-reducing projects, with 190 companies collectively reporting $3.7 billion in annual savings, the study found.
Falling Green-Energy Costs
Plummeting prices for renewable energy sources are a major factor in companies’ decision to go green. According to Power Forward 3.0, nearly two dozen Fortune 500 companies have now pledged to power all of their corporate operations with clean energy — mostly wind and solar — compared to only a handful of businesses a few years ago.
How cheap has renewable power gotten? According to a recent World Economic Forum report, the global average energy cost of utility-scale photovoltaic power fell by an average of 20 percent annually between 2012 and 2017. Today, it’s at or below the cost of conventional energy in parts of Asia, Europe and the U.S., reports GreenBiz.
Efforts Vary by Sector
Given the newly affordable nature of clean energy, it’s understandable that a diverse mix of Fortune 500 giants, including Bank of America, Facebook, Google and Walmart, have pledged to go renewable.
These efforts vary greatly by industry, however. According to the Power Forward report, the Fortune 500’s consumer staples sector is leading the green-power push, with 72 percent of businesses setting a renewable goal. Lagging far behind is the energy sector — primarily oil and gas providers — with just 11 percent of companies setting targets.
Global Renewable Push
Power Forward 3.0 is one of many recent reports that highlight the growing global trend of businesses moving to renewable energy — a decision based on a desire not only to fight climate change but also to cut costs.
Microsoft recently announced a partnership with Primus Power, NRG Energy and the University of Texas at San Antonio to develop utility-scale flow battery technology, which involves storing electrolytes in external tanks and pumping them through the battery to generate power. The initiative’s goal is to make it easier for Microsoft to run its data centers on renewable sources.
Meanwhile, the CEO of China’s State Grid Corporation, the world’s largest power company, wants to develop a global electrical grid fueled by solar and wind energy. The ambitious project would link power generation stations with solar IT systems and include everything from North Pole-based wind turbines to photovoltaic panels in African deserts.
One advantage of having large companies purchase vast amounts of renewable power is that it lowers energy prices. According to Jonathan Koomey, a lecturer at Stanford University’s School of Earth, Energy and Environmental Sciences, when a company doubles its solar production, it cuts solar energy costs by 20 percent, The New York Times reports. Similarly, doubling wind production cuts the cost of wind power by 10 to 12 percent.