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Corporations' Hunger for Clean Power Has Never Been Bigger

Jan. 28, 2019
Companies and government agencies last year signed contracts to buy 13.4 gigawatts of clean power, surpassing the prior record of 6.1 gigawatts in 2017.

Corporations couldn’t be any clearer: They want cheap renewable energy.

Companies and government agencies last year signed contracts to buy 13.4 gigawatts of clean power, comparable to Nevada’s total generating capacity. That easily shattered the prior record of 6.1 gigawatts that was set in 2017, according to a report on Jan. 28 by BloombergNEF.

The contracts still account for just a fraction of the total electricity corporations use. Even a group of companies that have pledged to ultimately get 100% of their power from renewables still relies on other resources for about two-thirds of its demand.

The tech giants of the world stand out as leaders in the space: Facebook Inc. alone accounted for more than 2.6 gigawatts of clean-energy deals last year, vaulting it over Alphabet Inc.’s Google, the longtime leader as the world’s biggest corporate buyer.

The U.S. made up 63% of global corporate renewables deals last year -- 8.5 gigawatts in total, almost triple the volume from 2017. Businesses with more modest appetites for electricity are banding their load together to capture “economies of scale of large renewables projects.”

Corporations’ sustainability targets and concerns about climate change are driving a green boom that has been propelled by renewable-energy subsidies and government mandates. While those subsidies are waning or expiring in many markets, wind and solar power is now often the cheapest electrical source, making these record volumes possible.

“It’s no longer a safe bet to assume that utilities are the biggest source of clean-energy demand,” Kyle Harrison, a New York-based analyst at BloombergNEF, said in an interview. “The sheer scale of renewable-energy purchases is unprecedented and only poised to grow.”

Even Exxon Mobil Corp. signed clean-power deals last year, for the Permian Basin, the fastest-growing U.S. oil field.

By Brian Eckhouse

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