5 Jun 2016

Attention Big Power Users: You Can Shop for Renewable Energy Supplies Here

Written by Jim Pierobon

The World Resources Institute has developed an interactive “Corporate Renewable Energy Strategy Map” that shows where heavy users of power can buy what the Institute considers “affordable” renewable electricity state-by-state at the scale companies need from local utilities.

For companies considering where to put new facilities or expand existing ones, the map –below — actually lets companies compare renewable power options in various states . But my favorite feature of the map is how its developers as the World Resources Institute (WRI) aspire to track and update the map with deals utilities are cutting with customers. That way, maybe other corporations can cut similar, or even better, deals.

Large corporations can begin assessing available options for renewable energy with this interactive map by the World Resources Institute. Click on a state to try it. In some states, you can read about large deals struck with utilities.

Large corporations can begin assessing available options for renewable energy supplies with this interactive map by the World Resources Institute. Go here to click on a state to try it. In some states, you can read about large deals struck with utilities.

Included in the state data are renewable energy mandates and tax incentives — where states have them — “green tariff” programs and other utility or state offerings that let customers get more control over their energy costs. One upshot: the map demonstrates that for states that have no renewable power supplies  — the largest concentration of which are in the Southeast U.S. — are at a growing disadvantage in drawing billions of dollars of investments by corporation operations whose missions increasingly are linked to sourcing cleaner energy.

In an interview, Letha Tawney, Director of Utility Innovation and Polsky Chair for Renewable Energy at WRI, says it will update the map as new utility products emerge and state policies evolve. So check back over time and watch how cleaner power on a large scale is becoming increasingly available. Hopefully, utilities will monitor what others are doing to keep up or raise the bar with cleaner sources of electricity.

Each option for buyers, in each state with something to offer, is tied to what WRI and its three partners in the recently forged as “Buyers Principles” organized for the Renewable Energy Buyers Alliance (REBA). Among the current 58 signatories are Amazon, Google, HP, Lockheed Martin, Microsoft, P&G and Volvo, to name just a few. Also involved are the World Wildlife Fund, the Rocky Mountain Institute’s Business Renewables Center and Business for Social Responsibility’s “Future of Internet Power” project.

Tawney leads the REBA initiative with Marty Spitzer, Director of U.S. Climate & Renewable Energy Policy at the World Wildlife Fund (WWF).

“If companies want to replace some or all of their traditionally-fueled electricity they buy from their utility with renewable energy such as wind and solar power — and they want the renewable energy certificates (RECs) that match that electricity, they have a few choices,” Tawney says.

And therein lies the challenge: only a “few choices.” With this map and its expanding functionality, hopefully options will grow.

A Shout-Out From the White House

in its push to secure agreements to the Paris Climate Accord, the White House on last week gave a shout-out to REBA and WRI commending them for joining the Clean Energy Ministerial initiative in order to scale corporate procurement and drive additional deployment of renewables across the range of member countries.

If a corporate facility is in a state where users can select their supplier, companies can find one that offers renewable energy directly. “This is exactly what Facebook did in the summer of 2015” for a new data center in Fort Worth, Texas, Tawney said.

In another instance, Spitzer said Proctor & Gamble asked for help on buying renewables from Georgia Power for its paper manufacturing plant in Albany, Georgia. “But it didn’t get very far,” he said. So Georgia Power lost out, perhaps in this one instance to Constellation, a unit of Exelon, which agreed to develop up to a 50-megawatt biomass plant there.

As more corporate energy buyers realize how renewable electricity costs are declining and match that with the absence of any price risks inherent with fossil fuels or nuclear, budgeting energy costs can become a lot more predictable.

“Offering a compelling renewable energy option is crucial to attracting the largest iconic brands to a community,” Tawney said.

Here Are the Utilities That Were At a Key Buyers Summit Last Month

Tawney and Spitzer said in an interview 95 companies demonstrated genuine interest in renewables at a REBA summit May 18-20 at Microsoft’s headquarters in Redmond, Washington.

Tawney said 10 utilities sent representatives to the Summit.  They included Avista Corp., Berkshire Hathaway Energy, Dominion Virginia Power, DTE Energy, Duke Energy, Pacific Corp., Puget Sound Energy, Rocky Mountain Power, Xcel Minnesota and Xcel Colorado.

Representatives of some of the utilities, policymakers and energy buyers participated in an opt-in, four-hour exercise patterned after the TV show “Shark Tank.” Said Spitzer: “This allowed them to brainstorm in a safe environment. They really went at it and came away with some creative solutions.”

Dominion Virginia Power’s Director of Customer Solutions, Stan Blackwell was the type of utility manager who participated and has been “engaging actively with several customers,” Tawney said. Blackwell couldn’t be reached for comment.

Tawney told Utility Dive Dominion’s purchase of an 80-megawatt wind farm developed for Amazon in its power grid (but not in its service territory) and a separate deal designed as a public-private partnership with the state of Virginia and Microsoft show promise.

About the Amazon deal, Tawney said, “It is the only deal I know of in which the regulated utility is essentially offering a virtual PPA (ppower purchase agreement) structure and the financial upside of a virtual PPA on the utility bill.”

Six Buyers Principles

What follow are the Buyer Principles that WRI and WWF presented to the Summit attendees. They cover what the signatories collectively are seeking from the marketplace. Go here for a white paper on insights from the Summit as developed by WRI and WWF with the Edison Electric Institute.

  1. Greater choice in our options to procure renewable energy
  2. Cost competitiveness between traditional and renewable energy rates
  3. Access to longer-term, fixed-price renewable energy
  4. Access to projects that are new or help drive new projects in order to reduce energy emissions beyond business as usual
  5. Increased access to third-party financing vehicles as well as standardized and simplified processes, contracts and financing for renewable energy projects
  6. Opportunities to work with utilities and regulators to expand our choices for buying renewable energy.

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