TODAY’S STUDY: WHO’S HELPING GET TO 100% NEW ENERGY?
A Status Report on Rising Commitments Among Corporations and Governments to Reach 100% Renewables November 2015 (CleanEdge)
The Rise in Commitments
The goal of powering one’s company, utility, city, state, or nation with 50%, 75%, or even 100% renewable electricity would have seemed preposterous not long ago. But increasingly, a growing number of companies and governments are aiming to achieve such targets. And nobody is laughing.
Reaching high penetrations of renewables, as we outline in this report, requires an all-of-the-above clean-energy approach. It includes the full portfolio of clean-energy sources including solar, wind, geothermal, biogas, and both existing largescale and new small-scale hydro. It leverages both distributed and utility-scale generation, as well as offsite solutions such as renewable energy credits (RECs) and utility green power. And it requires a holistic systems approach including not only deployment of renewables, but deep efficiency (LEDs, net zero buildings, etc.), demand-side management, and energy storage.
While reaching 100% renewables may seem like an audacious goal, it’s already starting to happen. Apple, for example, went from relying primarily on fossil fuels just a few years ago to powering all of its operations in the U.S. (corporate offices, retail stores, and data centers) with 100% renewables. Other companies to reach 100% renewables for their U.S. operations include Kohl’s, Intel, Microsoft, and Unilever. Google, which has already committed more than $2 billion in funding for solar and wind projects, is now setting up data centers powered entirely by renewables.
Many of these companies have relied heavily on RECs to meet their ambitious goals. But while much has been accomplished through RECs, the trend is turning towards onsite and contracted projects for solar, wind, efficiency, and other cleanenergy assets, due in large part to falling costs and increasingly available offerings. Unilever USA, for instance, is working to replace all of its REC usage with onsite and offsite renewable generation by 2020. And Walmart, the Environmental Protection Agency Green Power Program’s #1 onsite renewable producer, has hundreds of onsite solar projects in the U.S, with hundreds more coming online.
The country of Costa Rica recently achieved a national first – receiving all electricity from renewables generation during the first 100 days of 2015, primarily from a mix of hydro (which typically supplies about 68% of Costa Rica’s electricity but which received a huge boost from heavy rains early in the year) and geothermal (about 15%). At least 74 regions in Germany have reached 100% renewable electricity, with more working towards that goal. Several small islands have reached 100% renewables (or very close to it), such as Kodiak Island in Alaska and El Hierro in the Canary Islands. Three U.S. cities are now powered entirely by renewable electricity: Aspen, Colorado; Burlington, Vermont; and Greensburg, Kansas. Notable state-level commitments include Hawaii’s recently passed mandate to get to 100% renewable electricity by 2045, Vermont’s plan to get 75% of its electricity from renewables by 2032, and California’s renewable electricity goal of 50% by 2030.
A number of critical developments – a perfect storm of social, technological and financial innovation – are changing the energy ecosystem and enabling this massive and unprecedented shift to a low- and zero-carbon future:
• Competitive, low-cost renewables are increasingly becoming the norm for new generation capacity in many regions and geographies, achieving the goal of grid parity with traditional fossil-fuel energy sources, and providing a hedge against volatility in conventional energy markets
• As renewables technology and its financing options expand, a growing number of companies and governments are demanding that 50%, 70% or even 100% of their electricity comes from renewables
• The advent and availability of competitive energy storage systems, for commercial/industrial, utility, and eventually residential scale, is addressing the intermittency issue for renewables and is poised to dramatically shift the energy equation
• Significant breakthroughs in energy efficiency technologies and approaches (a great partner to renewables), including advanced lighting and net zero buildings, are providing deep energy savings across the value chain
• Finally, the drive by governments and companies to ensure climate resiliency is reshaping the energy landscape by making progress toward a two-way, intelligent, distributed grid.
Getting to 100% for many businesses and governments won’t be easy, and may take many years to implement. Companies and governments both have a growing toolkit to pull from as they set goals and deploy strategies. As we highlight in the 100% Renewables Toolkit section below, these include the following four steps:
The Growth of Renewables…Five Major Developments Enabling the Shift to 100%...Distributed Solar Becomes Cost-Effective Across Geographies…Utility-Scale Renewables Grow Up…Energy Storage Completes The Puzzle…Net Zero Buildings And Smart Connected Devices Drive Efficiency Renaissance…An Emboldened, Resilient Grid Takes Shape…Corporate Initiatives Diving the 100% Renewables Trend…A Growing Roster of Governments Take Charge…The 100% Renewables Tool Kit…
Conclusion: Where We Are And The Road Ahead
A decade and a half into the 21st century, the mission to reach 100% renewable energy is an increasingly realistic goal (and in a few cases, already a reality) for businesses and governments around the world. Getting there certainly presents daunting challenges, but a growing number of organizations are stepping up to meet them and help attain this aggressive resource optimization, climate, and economic goal.
As Clean Edge has mapped out in this report, the pathways to 100% renewables are varied and multi-dimensional. Even for companies or governments of comparable sizes, there is no one-size-fits-all approach. Options such as onsite renewables, PPAs for utility-scale solar and wind farms, RECs, community solar, and green energy tariffs all have a role to play, depending on geography, costs, budgets, utility regulations, and a host of other factors unique to each entity aiming for such targets.
Yet some strategies are common to virtually every business or government starting down the 100% RE path. Both the demand and supply sides of energy use must be thoroughly scoped out, starting with a comprehensive assessment of current baseline energy consumption and resulting GHG emissions. Maximizing the energy efficiency of existing buildings and operations, as well as new construction, is a critical first step, and dramatically increased deployment of clean-energy resources, in whatever form that takes, will clearly be a strategy employed by most. And increasingly cost-effective energy storage technologies, both distributed and largescale, are likely to be near-ubiquitous components of the 100% RE toolkit as well.
It’s an exciting time, and many trends enabling the 100% RE goal are pointing in the right direction: the declining costs and ever-increasing scale of solar and wind power; varied and innovative financing options; increasing public support; and in many areas, progressive government energy policies and utility regulatory reform.
But huge challenges remain. Entrenched business and political interests continue to maintain market and regulatory barriers (and in some areas, erect new ones) toward available and affordable clean-energy options. While some regions are pursuing ever more aggressive efforts, clean-energy supportive regulations and policies are coming under attack in other regions. And utilities and regulators will need to find new ways to work with clean-energy companies – and find ways to value and deploy renewables – to further the transition to low-carbon energy sources. This means that, for the foreseeable future, some regions and nations will be well ahead of others on the road to 100% RE.
For many entities the 100% RE goal is a long-term one. But the rise in commitments to such a future is picking up more adherents. As that momentum grows, it will build an increasing body of resources, best practices, and shared knowledge of the advancements and pitfalls on the road to 100% renewables. In many ways, we are just at the very beginning of this game-changing new phase of the clean-energy revolution: the shift to 100% renewables. It will be a marathon, not a sprint, for sure, but the pace shows no signs of slowing down