Early last week the EPA announced the 2015 Green Power Leadership Awards. At least five of the winners, who are recognized for achievements in advancing the nation’s renewable energy market, are affiliated with RMI’s Business Renewables Center (BRC). The EPA co-sponsors the awards in conjunction with the Center for Resource Solutions and presents them at the annual Renewable Energy Markets (REM) Conference. “We congratulate the BRC's members, sponsors, and advisors for their achievements," says Hervé Touati, managing director at RMI and head of the BRC. "They are driving an important transformation in how corporations source energy. And by sharing their knowledge with the BRC, these award-winning first movers will enable fast follower corporations to scale up their own renewable energy procurement bigger, better, and faster.”
The Award Winners
General Motors, a founding corporate member of the BRC, won the On-site Generation award, given to those who distinguish themselves using on-site renewable energy applications. General Motors is on track to exceed its 2020 commitment to use 125 MW of renewable energy across its global operations by next year. The award announcement cites GM’s installation last year of an on-site landfill gas system at its Fort Wayne Assembly Plant that produces 53 million kWh of renewable electricity per year. (In addition, GM's 1.8 MW rooftop solar array at a facility in Ohio is the largest in the state. And GM is a signatory of the Corporate Renewable Energy Buyer's Principles.)
Kaiser Permanente, another founding corporate member of the BRC, won the Green Power Purchasing award, given to those who distinguish themselves through purchases of green power. In 2012, Kaiser Permanente committed to reducing its greenhouse gas emissions by 30 percent from 2008 levels, and is ahead of schedule. Early this year Kaiser concluded agreements for 70 MW of on-site solar and 150 MW of off-site solar and wind, and that is just the latest.
Three-time winner Microsoft won the Partner of the Year award. Microsoft purchased more than 2.4 billion kWh of renewable energy in fiscal 2014 for its U.S. operations alone. Microsoft is purchasing as much power as it uses in the United States, and is committed to carbon neutrality. The company generates its own solar power at its Mountain View, CA, campus with a 480-kW on-site system and is a leader in off-site corporate renewable power purchase agreements (PPAs), a focus for the BRC. Recent notable Microsoft PPAs include the 110-MW Keechi Wind project and the 175-MW Pilot Hill Wind project. Brian Janous, director of energy strategy at Microsoft, is on the BRC Advisory Board.
On the renewable energy project developer side of the market, the Green Power Supplier of the Year is an award given to leaders in offering voluntary renewable energy to their customers, which is appropriate for the BRC, which exists to accelerate the procurement of utility-scale renewable energy by corporations. Two BRC sponsors won the prestigious award this year.
Renewable Choice Energy is a global supplier of products and services that advance clean energy development and the adoption of carbon reduction technologies and won for the second consecutive year. It was honored for leadership in expanding the nation’s renewable energy industry. In 2014, RCE supplied more than 6 billion kWh of green power to customers, an increase of 25 percent over the previous year.
3Degrees provides green power and carbon-offset products and services to Fortune 500 companies and others; the company is an innovator in customer enrollment. The award announcement cited its work in 2014 in educating the industry, clients, and the community at large on renewable energy PPAs and community solar. 3Degrees has won this award an eye-popping eight times!
Expanding the Market
“BRC members, sponsors, and advisors are advancing the field of renewable energy procurement by not only innovating, but also educating the market and the public,” says Lily Donge, BRC’s principal at RMI. The corporations involved with the BRC are leaders in utility-scale renewable energy procurement for corporations, especially off-site solar and wind. Through August of 2015, BRC affiliated companies were involved in roughly three-quarters of the deals in this space in the U.S.
Their actions are elevating the BRC as the place where the movers and shakers meet. The awards demonstrate that the first movers and fast followers in corporate renewable energy procurement are collaborating in the BRC, and the central roles that the BRC is playing at industry conferences, including the REM Conference, show that their leadership is gaining traction.
At the very conference where the Green Power Leadership Awards were given, the BRC was invited to raise the profile of PPAs by the organizers. In the same week, the BRC presented as part of a panel discussion on the challenges and rewards of innovation in the clean energy financing sector at the 2015 Distributed Sun New Energy Summit. The panel—introduced by Michael Liebreich of Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF)—is made up of past winners of the BNEF FiRE (Finance for Resilience) Award, won by the BRC in 2014.
And this week at Greenbiz’s VERGE conference, the BRC will be presenting in a workshop on the pros and cons of sourcing renewables from both small and large developers. The other panelists represent large corporate renewable energy buyers, while the BRC will represent all participants in these complex transactions. The other panelists are from Yahoo!, Facebook and Wal-Mart. The week after, the BRC will be presenting at Greentech Media’s U.S. Solar Market Insight conference. There, the topic will be on wholesale commercial and industrial solar energy purchasing, which is experiencing a large growth in demand to go along with the growth of residential solar.
This is just a snapshot of a few weeks of presentations and workshops. Many more are scheduled in the weeks and months to come. “The BRC has emerged as a leader and enabler in the corporate renewable field, and we are delighted to have the opportunity to reach more and larger audiences,” says Touati. But that leadership role is enabled only because of the progressive BRC-affiliated companies that are opening the market and sharing their knowledge with the BRC membership, so that many more fast followers can join their ranks. Even as we pause to celebrate the award recognition of BRC-affiliated companies, we look forward to future years when there'll be much more competition for those awards, thanks in part to the BRC's role expanding and accelerating the market.
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