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Climate Hustle

Despite Trump, American companies are still investing in renewable energy

Posted on 11 October 2017 by John Abraham

After the election of Donald Trump, many of us in the climate and energy fields were rightfully fearful. What would happen to international agreements to cut greenhouse gases? What would happen to funding for climate research? What would happen to the green energy revolution?

In most instances, Trump is worse than we could have imagined. But in one special area, Trump may not matter. That is in the growth of corporate purchasing of renewable energy. It turns out there are factors that even Trump cannot stop that make choosing renewable energy an easy decision for many companies.

New evidence about the unstoppable renewable energy wave recently came out in a report that was released by Apex Clean Energy and the GreenBiz Group. These groups surveyed corporations to determine their future plans on renewable energy installation and adoption. They wanted to know whether these plans had changed in the past few years and what motivated their decisions to implement renewable energy strategies. The outcome of this survey is available here for people who want to read the entire document.

The groups surveyed 153 major corporations (both public and private), whose combined revenue was in excess of $250 million. Among these companies, 84% are “actively pursuing or considering purchasing renewable energy over the next 5-10 years.” Surprisingly, they found that 43% of the corporations intend to be more aggressive in their pursuit of renewable energy in the next two years. 87% of those actively pursuing renewable energy purchases stated that the election of Trump had no impact on their decision. 

In fact, 11% were more inclined to purchase renewable energy. Most surprising to me was that of the 128 companies that are actively pursuing or considering purchase of renewable energy over the next two years, all but 1 responded that they were “positive about either continuing forward or becoming more aggressive in their attempts to pursue renewables.” 

A really important part of the survey addressed what motivated the companies as they made decisions to pursue renewables. Also, the report identified the factors that make companies successful in their pursuit. In terms of motivation to actually purchase renewables, 65% of the corporations report that energy price was the leading criteria. So sure, companies want to do the right thing, they want to create a healthier planet to hand off to future generations; they want to improve their public image. But, the decision to implement clean energy has to be made when the economics are right. It turns out, these companies want a diversified energy portfolio (energy sources and geography). Bringing clean energy, especially wind and solar into their energy supply can be a hedge against rising and variable costs of fossil fuels.

The majority of these companies (57%) have renewable energy targets, and having such targets and champions within the corporation makes it much easier to follow through on renewable energy purchases. The main motivations for creating these targets in the first place were to address climate and emission goals and to demonstrate corporate leadership in their industry. 

What this tells me is that while a majority of companies have aspirations to engage with clean energy, and while those aspirations are driven by corporate responsibility, it is the economics that convert aspirations to actions.

The survey then reported on the types of renewable energy purchases. The most common was owned renewable energy on site. But the second most common was purchased renewable energy credits, followed by power purchase agreements, leased renewable energy infrastructure, green tariffs, and community solar. Steve Vavrik, Apex’s Chief Commercial Officer told me:

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Comments

Comments 1 to 7:

  1. The link to the pdf of the survey is in the 3rd paragraph.

    The fourth paragraph of this article states that 84% of the companies are actively pursuing or considering renewable energy.

    On page 15 of the PDF, ApexCleanEnergy provides the following statement on the methodology of the sampling used in the survey.


    An email link invited the panel’s 3,486 members to participate anonymously in the survey. We analyzed the results from 350 respondents in nearly 18 industries. These sub-industries were  categorized into 10 primary industries. The “other” industry category included recipients from agriculture, hospitality, transportation and other undefined industries. 

    The overall response rate was 10 percent. About 67 percent of these  respondents are based in the United States. Forty-four percent of  respondents are from organizations with revenues greater than $250  million.


    For those that are familiar with sampling, should be able to recognize the weakness in the quality of the survey based on the methodology and the weakness of the results as being representative of the general business community.

    Compare and contrast with other polling organizations such as rasmussen, fiveThirtyEight, Marist, etc

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    Moderator Response:

    [JH] Unsubtantiated assertion snipped.

  2. Tom13 @1, the polling methods are pretty standard. Its not fully representative of America as whole, but is a good indication that theres very significant interest in investing in renewabale energy.

    On the other hand we have other related information as follows from Bloomberg using other surveys and assessments that shows just how huge interest is in investing in renewable energy in America:

    www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-04-25/biggest-u-s-companies-setting-more-renewable-energy-targets

    "Almost half of the biggest U.S. companies have established clean-energy targets for themselves, according to a report Tuesday from sustainable investors and environmental groups including the World Wildlife Fund."

    "It’s not just the biggest U.S. companies — 44 percent of the smallest 100 members of the Fortune 500 have also set goals, up from 25 percent in 2014, and 48 percent of the entire list."

    "Many are finding that renewable energy isn’t just cleaner, it’s also often cheaper. About 190 Fortune 500 companies collectively reported about $3.7 billion in annual savings, according to Power Forward 3.0, a report by WWF, Ceres, Calvert Research & Management and CDP." Etc,etc,etc.

    Heres another view of the situation on renewable energy generally from Business Insider. America is "leading the way on investments in renewable energy"  from this article. Sorry its a couple of years old but shows the general picture anyway.

    www.businessinsider.com/us-2015-renewable-energy-investments-2016-5?IR=T

    "Of all the countries in the world, the United States invested the second-most on renewable energy in 2015. Only China outspent us.American investments reached $44 billion last year, up 17% over 2014. (That figure includes investments from both private companies and government entities.) This is according to a recent United Nations-backed report with research from Bloomberg New Energy Finance."

    And some more from another article on investments in renewable energy:

    www.renewableenergyworld.com/articles/2014/08/big-companies-big-renewable-investments.html

     

    "Twenty-four companies from the Fortune 100 and Global Fortune 100 have set specific targets for percentage of renewable energy generated, capacity (MW) or level of investment in renewable energy for their own operations."

    "According to the Ceres Power Forward Report, Wal-Mart is prioritizing long-term PPAs above other financing models as a way of procuring long-term, low-cost renewable energy. The company has set a long-term goal to have its operations fueled 100 percent by renewable energy (no date set). Wal-Mart has more than 180 renewable energy projects in operation or under development, providing more than 1.1 billion kWh of renewable electricity annually."

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  3. To summarize the The email requesting was sent to the members of "GreenBiz Intelligence Panel" a group which is group that is already predisposed to renewable/green energy. Only 10% responded - In other words, the initial group is limited to a predisposed sample group with only a 10% response rate - My basis for the assetion I made is directly from the  facts describing the methodolgy as detailed in the previously cited paragraphs.  Those facts are highlighted on page 15 of the pdf of the survey report.

    Nigelj - Can you provide any insight as to why the survey would be an accurate representation of the plans of the general business community.

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  4. Please check the statement: "The groups surveyed 153 major corporations (both public and private), whose combined revenue was in excess of $250 million." Some individual organizations have revenues greater than $250 million so the combined total must be larger.

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  5. #4 - Andy 

    Page 15 of the pdf (link in the lst sentence of the 3rd paragraph) provides the actual methodology - 

    An email link invited the panel’s 3,486 members to participate anonymously in the survey. We analyzed the results from 350 respondents in nearly 18 industries. These sub-industries were categorized into 10 primary industries. The “other” industry category included recipients from agriculture, hospitality, transportation and other undefined industries.

    The overall response rate was 10 percent. About 67 percent of these respondents are based in the United States. Forty-four percent of respondents are from organizations with revenues greater than $250 million.

    Note the panel consists of members of the "GreenBiz intelligence Panel"

    Hope that helps.

     

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  6. A sure sign that renewable energy simply makes good economic sense.  Flavor that with a concern with the environment and possible cocking a snook at Trump and there is enough motivation that we will be able to look back on the Trump years as some of the best in the uptake of renewable energy. 

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  7. Tom13 @3

    "Nigelj - Can you provide any insight as to why the survey would be an accurate representation of the plans of the general business community."

    I never claimed the Apex survey did.  Please actually read what people say. I said "the survey is unlikely to be representative of America as whole" In other words I basically agree it samples companies dedicated to renewable energy, and this may not reflect business as a whole in America. But then again it may be representative, because we dont have enough knowledge about what all companies think or dont think or whether the ones in the survey were all that particularly special.

    You have made your point, no need for you to repeat it over and over.

    Anyway its only one study. The wider point is I showed you a list of other surveys and assessments that show a large proportion of companies with considerable interest in renewable energy. Surely this is the main point? If you can't register this simple thing it becomes frustrating.

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