Big business likes wind power, study finds

Source: David Ferris, E&E reporter • Posted: Thursday, October 20, 2016

A survey of big companies that have invested heavily in renewable energy has found that wind farms are their top choice, mainly because they pay for themselves more quickly.

The study also found that most of these companies have set concrete targets for electrifying themselves with renewable energy, with a majority having goals to do so in less than a decade.

The survey is of 37 large companies that are either part of the Corporate Eco Forum, which has members among the Fortune 500 and Global 500, or the Renewable Energy Buyers Alliance, a group of businesses that buy renewable power and want to galvanize others to do the same.

Here are some of the survey’s results:

  • Wind accounted for 54 percent of the renewables the firms purchased, followed by photovoltaic solar power at 21 percent. Survey respondents said that wind had the quickest payback, at just under six years. Rounding out the companies’ renewable portfolios were small portions of biofuels and biogas, geothermal power and hydropower, and generators that use traditional fuels but with higher efficiency, like combined heat and power generators and fuel cells.
  • The largest slice of companies, 27 percent, obtained their renewable energy through renewable-energy certificates, or RECs. An additional 24 percent negotiated power-purchase agreements, or PPAs, while 16 percent directly owned their renewable generators. RECs represent a pool of renewable power being generated on the electric grid and are designed to make it easy for companies to buy in. However, their effectiveness in reducing carbon emissions has been called into question. PPAs, by contrast, are binding contracts between a company and a renewable power farm to deliver a certain amount of power to the grid.
  • About half of the corporations have a target amount of power they seek from renewables, and half do not. Of those with a target, a large majority have short-term goals between now and 2025. Only a few have long-term targets, from 2026 to 2050. Of those with a target, about half are aiming for 100 percent renewable energy. Many of the companies that lack a renewables target instead have the goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
  • The most important motivation companies reported was mitigating climate change impact. The second most important drivers were reducing the cost of procuring energy and to demonstrate leadership.