Corporations bought more clean-energy than ever, boosted by tech heavyweights Google, Facebook and Amazon as they are pushed to reform their energy policies.
Power purchase agreements totaled 19.5 gigawatts of clean energy last year, up 44% from the 2018’s record of 13.6 gigawatts, according to BNEF. A total of 53 gigawatts of the deals have been signed since 2008, equivalent to the generating capacity of Vietnam. Alphabet Inc.’s Google was the biggest corporate clean-energy buyer in 2019, followed by Facebook, Amazon and Microsoft.
“The clean energy portfolios of some of the largest corporate buyers rival those of the world’s biggest utilities,” the report’s lead author, Kyle Harrison, told the Guardian.
The lion’s share of contracts, 13.6 gigawatts, or 70% of the purchase power agreements, last year were signed in the U.S. Europe and Latin America also saw record activity last year.
This increase occurred as a growing number of corporations have made sustainability commitments. While the U.S. is in the midst of leaving the Paris Agreement aimed at mitigating climate change, some 400 companies last year pledged to curb their emissions in line with the pact. Google, Microsoft and Facebook are among 221 firms that have promised to offset 100% of their power consumption with solar and wind.
“These companies are facing mounting pressure from investors to decarbonize,” Harrison said.
The switch to clean electricity is increasingly seen as a good economic decision, not simply an altruistic one. Southern Co. CEO Thomas Fanning, who has long protested against the “the war on coal,” is now taking a different tack and slashing its coal use. Southern, which produces enough electricity to meet the power needs of Australia, generates 22% of its power from coal now, down from more than 50% in 2011. Renewables generated 12% of the company’s electricity in 2019.
“One of the riskiest things a company can do in this kind of environment is not to change,“ Fanning told Bloomberg News.
- U.S. companies are leading the way in fulfilling the European Union’s climate goals, with Google, Amazon and other American firms buying renewable energy while cutting costs, the Wall Street Journal has reported.
- U.S. solar installations are projected to jump 20% in 2020, according to IHS Markit. Top solar markets over the next five years will be California, Texas, Florida, North Carolina and New York, IHS Markit said.