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Will cities join the renewable energy tsunami? asks Tom Lindberg, MD, ECOHZ

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Will cities join the renewable energy tsunami? asks Tom Lindberg, MD, ECOHZ

Corporations are spurring renewable demand as they realise the benefits of consuming clean energy. The world’s most influential companies, including Unilever, Ikea and Google, have pledged to use 100 per cent renewable power and have joined a collaborative, global initiative called RE100.

 

RE100 is attracting new corporate members every week. But what if we also had leading cities join the movement, making similar pledges and thus adding new fuel to the movement? Any reason we should not hope for a close link between C40 and RE100?

 

A recent report by Arup and C40 argues that if we are to remain in the safe limit of a 2° C global warming, cities will need to not only contribute, but ramp up their climate initiatives by 125 per cent. The global demand for renewable electricity continues to grow at a rapid pace. Much of the demand is driven by an increased sense of urgency among leading international businesses in contributing to combating climate change – by switching from fossil based power to clean, renewable energy.

 

The backdrop, transforming these businesses from being passive bystanders to proactive contributors, is closely related to an awakening spurred by the process of establishing the ambitious UN framework of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in September 2016, and the inclusive process of finding common ground for fighting climate change among 195 countries at COP21 in Paris later the same year.

 

This global backdrop has inspired leading companies across various industries to take charge of their destiny – defining a clear sustainability agenda as critical to their future competitiveness. Waiting for «the others» to lead, is not an option, while ’teaming up’ to bring a collective weight to the market has become the way to move forward.

 

The last two years have seen numerous initiatives arise – many with similar goals of securing access to renewables to power all operations – in all corners of the world. The most far-reaching initiatives are WeMeanBusiness and RE100. The RE100 initiative was established by The Climate Group and CDP, and now has 83 corporate members – all having pledged publicly to consume 100 per cent renewable energy; a large majority committed to a 2020 deadline!

 

In the ’energy transition’ we all sense is upon us – the power of the consumer has so far been very much undervalued. But now consumers’ demand for renewables is finally being recognised – and even more so the collective purchasing power of the corporate world. RE100 is the first ripple of a wave, on its way to becoming a tsunami – of devastating force.

 

This corporate tsunami is broadening out – with new members joining weekly. The wave is building depth and additional momentum when RE100 companies ’push’ their renewable energy ambitions down their own supply chains.

 

To feed the tsunami, companies are asking for choices; real alternatives to fossil based energy, but also alternative paths for ensuring access to renewables. Although these businesses share a common renewable ambition they vary widely in how they plan to reach their targets. It means that ’one size does not fit all’. Some are in a position to take a long-term industrial approach and provide capital and resources to build new off-site generation.

 

Others are looking to utilize onsite roof space for incremental solar generation, while again others are looking primarily for long term price certainty and opt for using PPAs from renewable power plants. But even with the onslaught of many new renewable options, a large majority of companies will still opt for sourcing their renewable power from the local power grids. All of it, or parts of it. The underlying need, shared by these corporates, is that their chosen alternatives are backed by credible endorsements from independent stakeholders and reporting standards like CDP and GHG Protocol.

 

A key ingredient enabling such endorsement is the use of standardized tracking and documentation instruments for renewable power, providing transparent proof of renewable procurement. In Europe such tracking is available and is known as Guarantees of Origin (GOs), while a similar system – RECs – is in place in North America.

 

Based on ’best practice’ from 15 years of operations in Europe and N-America, the International REC Standard (I-REC) has been developed. I-REC is currently being deployed in numerous countries in Asia, Latin-America and Africa. Along with GOs and RECs, I-RECs are accepted by key stakeholder organisations, as THE way to document renewable claims.

 

This is a great development for forward-thinking businesses, and allows a simple, trustworthy and standardised way to document any and all of their renewable purchasing claims. Across operations. On all continents.

 

When pledging to go 100 per cent renewable, these leading corporates are dead serious about the path they have taken. They will challenge, push and kick local energy providers and governments, until they can deliver on their renewable pledge.

 

Cities already act much like corporations do. Cities can and should join the business world in committing to go 100 per cent renewable. This will have a significant impact! Never underestimate a tsunami. This one is fast building momentum and speed, and soon has the power to reshape the global energy landscape.

 

 

 

Tom works to develop renewable energy solutions that help companies and societies rapidly transition to renewable energy to build profitable businesses and create sustainable societies. Corporates are changing the power industry with initiatives like RE100 and they are increasing the demand for renewable energy.

As managing director of ECOHZ, member of the Advisory Board of EKOenergy, board member of RECS International, The International REC Standard and the Chairman of the Board of ECOHZ Renewable Energy Foundation, Tom works to raise awareness of how companies can become energy neutral by consuming renewable energy with Guarantees of Origin in Europe, RECs in North America and I-REC internationally. He has also worked on developing innovative financing mechanisms like GO2 that contribute to building new renewable power plants simply and effectively.

 

 

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