RE100 report showcases the role for corporate action in energy transition efforts

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Key highlights offered by the RE100 group are that its 155 members now operate in over 140 markets worldwide; there has been a 41% rise in renewable electricity used by its members this year; and the operations of 37 of its members are now 95% powered by renewables.

Another milestone revealed by the report is that if RE100 were considered a country, it would have the 23rd largest electricity consumption in the world (188 TWh per year), with total demand greater than the countries of Argentina and Portugal combined. “With a combined revenue of US$4.5 trillion – 5% of global GDP – the companies represent a major source of finance for clean energy infrastructure,” read a statement released.

Other findings of note include the fact that more than three quarters of the organization’s members have 100% RE targets by 2030; while Japan, Australia, Mexico, Turkey and Taiwan were identified as rising players in RE100 efforts. Indeed, over 30% of new members in the study period comprised Japanese firms.

Meanwhile, coprporate PPAs among RE100 members were found to have more than doubled in 2017. The leading role played by IT firms in transitioning to more sustainable energy management – 73% of their electricity came from renewables in 2017 – was also underscored. They are helping to grow the corporate PPA segment in particular.

In 2017, Alphabet Inc., parent company of Google, for example, became the first company to match its energy consumption with renewables. To date, it has signed over $3 billion worth of corporate PPAs totaling 3 GW of solar and wind, globally. And it is not alone: The majority of tech giants, including Amazon, Facebook, and Apple, have become the primary adopters of such agreements, thus helping to shape a truly profitable, dynamic renewable energy industry. Indeed, according to figures supplied by Bloomberg NEF, with a total of 1.8 GW worth of deals, these tech giants have been the largest off-takers to sign corporate renewable energy PPAs so far this year.

Renewable energy uptake by RE100 member sector.

Image: RE100 Progress and Insights
Annual Report, November 2018

Overall, members state the clear economic case as the “key driver” for transitioning to 100% renewables, although they say that policy is the biggest barrier to this uptake.

Climate action

The RE100, steered by ‘The Climate Group’ and the Carbon Disclosure Project, seeks to incorporate sustainable practices and corporate social responsibility into multinational corporations. Addressing climate action from a multi-level governance framework, and with private sector usage accounting for two thirds of the world’s electricity demand, partnerships such a these are becoming increasingly relevent.

What gives rise to optimism from the RE100 report is that if 24% of the organization’s 155 members can operate 95% “renewably”, surely such practices can be scaled-up to national levels in the coming years. This report may even be viewed as a counter-thesis to the conservative forecasts seen in the freshly published IEA World Energy Outlook 2018.

Such opinion is echoed by Helen Clarkson, CEO of the Climate Group, who comments, “With so much depressing news at the moment, here we have a refreshing, positive story of how ambitious corporate action is changing the world for the better. We congratulate RE100 members on the progress they are making by building renewables into their growth strategies, and engaging policymakers and suppliers. This is what all leading multinationals should be doing.”