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Organizing businesses to make it easier to buy renewable energy: NPR



Power lines and wind turbines that generate electricity rise above the countryside on June 13, 2018, near Dwight, Illinois. Faced with falling costs, worldwide renewables spending, such as wind and solar, is now fueled by fossil fuel and nuclear power.

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Scott Olson / Getty Images

Power lines and wind turbines that generate power rise above the countryside on June 13, 2018 near Dwight, Illinois. Driven by declining costs, worldwide spending on renewable energy sources such as wind and sun today are investments in electricity from fossil fuels and nuclear power.

Scott Olson / Getty Images

Environmental awareness is often easier said than done, but a new business organization wants to change that. The group focuses on large energy buyers and plans to push for changes that could make renewable electricity more accessible to all Americans.

Companies across industries-including Walmart, General Motors, Google, and Johnson & Johnson-form a trade association that represents renewable energy companies and eliminates barriers that make it difficult to move away from carbon.

The new organization, the Renewable Energy Buyers Alliance, builds on years of work between companies and nonprofit organizations. Currently, around 200 companies, cities and universities are involved.

Miranda Ballentine, CEO of the new trading group, says the organization will help spur the energy markets and public policies to facilitate the decision to buy green electricity.

It's harder than you might think a company will choose renewable energy, says Ballentine.

Many renewable energy technologies that hit or beat brown [conventional] electricity prices would make you think, "Hallelujah, the day has come, clean energy is there, we can just go and buy it now." However, there are a number of obstacles, "she says.

The energy markets are set up, among other things, as they are, and they vary by region – in some areas more choice is possible than in others, but in many locations Buyers can not select a source for the energy they receive from a utility company.

"You can not really say, 'I want the energy from this wind project over there,' says Ballentine. "You literally can not sign a contract for certain sources of power."

In other cases, there are technological challenges. "Some renewable energy technologies such as wind and sun do not produce around the clock – they produce when the sun is shining and when the wind blows," says Ballentine. "And we as energy consumers … we need our energy around the clock," she says.

REBA hopes to improve its purchasing power to support technological innovation and urge utilities to offer greener options – and, if necessary, demand changes in public policy.

"The demand side of the equation really has a unique role really has a unique voice and the ability to drive the clean energy market," says Ballentine.

Many companies have adopted environmentally-friendly energy goals as part of their sustainability efforts – whether for corporate responsibility or in pursuit of positive PR.

But Steve Chriss, director of energy and strategy analysis at Walmart, says there is a financial calculation as well.

Walmart has "a great desire to work as cleanly and sustainably as possible," he says. "But we also want to work at the lowest possible cost." Since the cost of renewable energy has come, we believe that renewable energy will be the best cost option in a number of markets. "

" It's not just a specialty of interest some [companies] who are really interested in it, "he says. It's really a business game to deliver the most cost-effective resources possible. "

Walmart, which operates on a large scale, organizes multiple sources of renewable energy – from rooftop solar roofs to complex agreements with utilities." Other companies may be interested in green electricity, but they do not necessarily have the scope or capabilities of one Walmart "to pursue these options, says Chriss.

The REBA will set itself the goal of opening access to green energy to all members, not just the most powerful mega-corporations.

"As access points increase, economies of scale decrease," Chriss sa ys says. "We're trying to figure out where renewable energy can be the most cost-effective resource in any market."

Priya Barua, senior manager of supply innovation at World Resources Institute, explains the work of the new trading group could well beyond the Mi addition, the impact The institute is one of the four non-profit organizations that contributed to the foundation of REBA.

"It not only creates options for [corporate and industrial] customers, but the use of their collective purchasing power … to create options in the market, from which everyone benefits."


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