Big Oil And Big Tech Are Spending Billions On Renewable Energy

Given the option, most Americans would not only prefer to choose their own utilities but also have more energy from clean sources for their homes. This emerges from a consumer report poll that found 81% of respondents felt that reducing pollution from power plants is a worthwhile goal. That decision is not entirely in their hands, however, as only 50% of Americans have the option to purchase renewable energy directly from their electricity suppliers, although everyone has the option to purchase Renewable Energy Certificates (RECs).
Businesses' relationship with renewables may not be that simple. For many companies, the cost of climate change, rather than a change of heart, could force them to re-strategize and reduce their carbon footprint or to think about reducing their fossil fuel consumption.
Nevertheless, corporate organizations have become the largest consumers of renewable energies.
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Global companies have signed a record number of clean energy purchase agreements (PPAs), according to a report by Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF). In 2019, companies bought 19.5 gigawatts of clean electricity through long-term contracts, an impressive 40% increase over the previous year. Over the past three years, companies have grown their clean energy purchases rapidly from 4.3 GW in 2016.
When it comes to which corners of the corporate world have bought the most renewables, there are no surprises here as Big Tech takes the pie lightly.
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The big surprise, however, is that Big Oil, a sector often scourged for its oversized role in climate change, is also showing a large presence here.
Source: BNEF
Big Oil competes with Big Tech
For the past half a decade or so, technology giants Google, Amazon, Facebook and Microsoft have dominated clean energy procurement and want to continue to be the largest customers for renewable energy.
Last year, Google signed deals to buy more than 2.7 GW of clean energy worldwide, the largest clean energy commitment of any company on the planet. This included contracts to purchase 1.9 GW of clean energy in six countries. Google uses a unique reverse auction process when signing renewable energy contracts, in which developers participate in a live public bidding process.
Facebook had the second largest commitments (1.1 GW) while Amazon (0.9 GW) and Microsoft (0.8 GW) came in third and fourth, respectively. Google has signed up to $ 2 billion in wind and solar investments to use the clean energy to power its huge data centers. Meanwhile, Amazon has announced plans to invest in four new renewable energy projects to support the company's goal of achieving 80% renewable energy by 2024 and 100% renewable energy by 2030.
These four internet giants operate huge, power-hungry data centers that have been blamed for their copious greenhouse gas emissions. So it's probably not surprising that they strive to improve at least some of the damage.
Big Tech could be the clear leader in renewable energy, but Big Oil could soon compete with it.
Occidental Petroleum (NYSE: OXY), Chevron (NYSE: CVX), and Energy Transfer Partners (NYSE: ET) all signed solar deals in 2019, followed by ExxonMobil (NYSE: XOM), which signed several major PPAs in 2018.
In November 2018, Exxon signed a PPA with the Danish energy provider Ørsted (CPH: ORSTED), with which the oil major will buy 500 MW of wind and solar energy from the Ørsted parks in Texas for the operation of its oil fields in the Permian Basin.
Last year Occidental announced the commissioning of its 16 MW solar farm in Texas and the signing of a purchase agreement for an additional 109 MW of solar energy.
That same year, Chevron announced that it had signed a 12-year PPA with a west Texas wind farm to purchase 65 MW of wind power.
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Meanwhile, pipeline company Energy Transfer Partners has agreed to a 15-year PPA contract with Canadian Solar's wholly owned subsidiary Recurrent Energy, LLC to build a 28 MWac Maplewood 2 solar project. The PPA was Energy Transfer's first dedicated solar contract.
Robust need for clean energy
Currently, 270 global companies have joined the RE100 Club, i. H. Companies that have undertaken to obtain 100% of their energy needs from renewable sources at a later date. This is an increase of 22% compared to the previous year's figure of 221 members.
According to BNEF, sustainability commitments as well as the strong ESG megatrend will ensure that clean energy procurement by companies continues to flourish. In fact, the Energy Watchdog estimates that 221 RE100 companies will need to purchase an additional 210 TWh of clean electricity last year by 2030 to meet their goals, which in turn will catalyze an estimated 105 GW of new solar and wind power plants worldwide and nearly $ 100 billion in clean energy infrastructure.
Source: BNEF
However, with RE100 membership growing by such an impressive figure, you can bet that the actual numbers for clean energy and infrastructure are 2-3 times higher than the BNEF estimates.
By Alex Kimani for
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