World’s Largest Companies Embracing Clean Energy

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WASHINGTON, DC, December 17, 2012 (ENS) – A majority of the world’s largest companies are not waiting for governments to mandate renewable energy and lower greenhouse gas emissions, they are taking it upon themselves to act first. A new report from investment and conservation organizations shows that more than half of the Fortune 100 and more than two-thirds of the Global 100 have set carbon emissions reduction commitments, renewable energy commitments or both.

“The global transition to a lower carbon economy is accelerating due to rising public concern about climate change,” states the report. AT&T, DuPont, General Motors, Google, HP, Sprint, and Walmart are among the corporations that have set their own renewable energy and greenhouse gas goals.

wind farm, Maine
First Wind’s Stetson wind farm, the largest in Maine, began operating in January 2009. (Photo courtesy First Wind)

Despite glacial progress on climate and energy policy in the U.S. Congress and at the United Nations climate change talks that concluded in Qatar December 9, the report from Calvert Investments, Ceres and World Wildlife Fund shows that clean energy practices are becoming standard for some of the largest and most profitable companies in the world.

The report, “Power Forward: Why the World’s Largest Companies are Investing in Renewable Energy,” shows that a majority of Fortune 100 companies have set a renewable energy commitment, a greenhouse gas emissions reduction commitment or both.

The trend is even stronger internationally, as more than two-thirds of Fortune’s Global 100 have set the same commitments.

The report was prepared by David Gardiner & Associates with the guidance of WWF, Ceres, and Calvert staff. It was sourced from analysis of corporate public disclosures as well as two dozen interviews with Fortune and Global 100 executives.

“When a majority of the world’s largest companies are investing in clean energy, you can truly see its value,” said Mindy Lubber, president of Ceres, a coalition of investors, companies and public interest groups. Ceres also directs the Investor Network on Climate Risk, 100 institutional investors with assets totaling more than $10 trillion.

“It speaks volumes that almost all of these companies set their renewable energy and greenhouse gas goals after the economic downturn, precisely because they understand the economic benefits of efficiency and renewable energy,” said Lubber. “We encourage lawmakers to support policies that help companies meet and strengthen their clean energy goals.”

The report shows that 96 companies from the combined 173 companies in the Fortune 100 and Global 100 have set greenhouse gas reduction goals – 56 percent.

This solar system is on the Ferguson Data Center in St. Louis, Missouri that supports 250 manufacturing and engineering sites worldwide. The facility was awarded LEED Gold certification in 2010. (Photo courtesy Emerson Electric Co.)

Of those, 23 companies have set specific goals for renewable energy use, with others using renewable energy to meet their greenhouse gas goals.

Many companies are shifting from purchasing short-term, temporary Renewable Energy Credits to longer-term investment strategies like Power Purchase Agreements and on-site projects, indicating a long-term commitment to renewable energy and reaping the benefits of reduced price volatility, according to the report.

“The companies that are boldly setting either greenhouse gas or renewable energy goals and making progress on those commitments are demonstrating the business case and real leadership on climate change,” said Marty Spitzer, director of U.S. Climate Policy with WWF, the global conservation organization.

“And, in the process,” said Spitzer, “these companies are changing the game – driving significant renewable energy investment globally and pressing for the right policy and market conditions that will allow companies to do even more.”

Bennett Freeman, senior vice president for sustainability research and policy, with the investment management company Calvert, said, “The world’s largest companies are expanding their use of renewable energy because it makes good business sense. They see the value in diversifying their energy supply, mitigating fuel cost risk, cutting their energy-related emissions, and, in some cases, providing a physical asset with real value for the enterprise.”

“We strongly encourage all companies to set renewable energy targets and disclose these commitments, which we believe will help companies – and those who invest in them – address clear risks and seize concrete opportunities,” said Freeman.

The companies that have set renewable energy and greenhouse gas commitments still face challenges to accelerating their use of renewable energy, the report shows.

Company executives said one barrier is that that in some regions renewable energy is not yet at cost-parity with subsidized fossil-based energy.

They must also contend with inconsistent policies that send mixed signals to companies and investors in renewable energy projects, particularly instability in renewable energy incentives and policies that prevent companies from signing green power purchase agreements.

The report advises U.S. policymakers to promote tax credits or other incentives that level the cost playing field for renewable energy, in particular, extending the Production Tax Credit for wind energy this year.

State legislators should establish Renewable Portfolio Standards in states that do not have them, the report recommends.

Policymakers should remove policy hurdles in states that prevent companies from contracting to buy the cheapest renewable power available and building on-site renewable power generation, the report suggests.

Finally, the report advises, market-based solutions that put a price on the pollution from fossil-fueled energy generation – a carbon price – would help facilitate the growth of renewable energy.

Some of the corporate commitments cited in the report:

  • BP: Invest $8 billion in renewable energy between 2005 and 2015
  • Caterpillar: 20% renewable energy by 2020
  • Chevron: Invest $2.2 billion between 2011 and 2013 in renewable energy and efficiency
  • Deutsche Post: Increase percentage of electricity generated from renewable energy sources to 60% by 2012
  • Dow Chemical: 50% zero carbon energy by 2050
  • DuPont: Reduce nonrenewable energy use by 10% per adjusted dollar revenue by 2020 (relative to 2010 baseline)
  • Électricité de France: Long-term goal of 1,000 MW of renewable energy production
  • General Motors: Utilize 125 MW of renewable energy by 2020 (globally), double solar power from 30 to 60 MW by 2015
  • Google: 100% renewable energy (long-term goal)
  • Hewlett-Packard: 8% renewable energy by 2012
  • HSBC Holdings: 40% renewable energy by 2020
  • Johnson & Johnson: 50 MW of renewable energy by 2015
  • Procter & Gamble: 30% renewable energy by 2020 (100% long-term goal)
  • Volkswagen: Invest €1 billion in the expansion of renewable energy, including solar and wind, by 2020
  • Walmart: 100% renewable energy (long-term goal)

Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2012. All rights reserved.

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