You may have thought the push for All Renwable Energy All The Time went out the window with the departure of Barack Obama and his control of the EPA but you would be mistaken. The 100% renewable crowd is still in action and they’ve been gradually enlisting a number of major tech sector corporations into their ranks. The website The Energy Collective ran a feature this week touting the progress that many of the nation’s largest companies have made along these lines.
America’s technology corporate giants have led the corporate renewables procurement trend, but two of the biggest names in tech just reached a new mark: Apple and Google are now both 100% powered by renewable energy.
That means the company behind the ubiquitous iPhone and iPad as well as the website that’s synonymous with Internet searches are now wholly powered by wind, solar, or another non-fossil fuel.
But these two tech giants aren’t alone – they’re leading an international trend among the world’s corporations to invest in renewable energy projects and sign long-term contracts for clean electricity from utilities. This trend is opening up new markets for renewable energy, leading corporate suppliers to decarbonize, and saving money on corporate bottom lines – and it isn’t slowing down anytime soon.
Say… that’s pretty impressive. They’re at 100% renewable energy when only 15% of the power on the grid in 2016 (the last year we have full data for thus far) was from renewable sources like wind, solar and geothermal? Quite the feat. I wonder how they managed it, particularly at a company like Apple? If you’re hooked up to the public grid, you’re drawing in energy from many, many sources, and not much of it comes from renewables.
The answer to this mystery is found in something known as the RE100. Going by the RE100 standards you can get to 100% renewable energy compliance in one of two ways. The most direct (and honest) method would be to generate your own renewable energy by building a wind farm or solar array, taking all of your energy from there and disconnecting from the grid. But that’s a difficult and expensive proposition which requires a lot of land. The other method is to either set up what are known as Power Purchase Agreements (PPAs) with utility companies or purchase renewable electricity certificates (RECs).
These RECs are very similar in nature to the RINs the government uses in the ethanol scheme for producing gasoline. In this case, if you want to look like you’re using more renewable energy than you are, you can purchase RECs, pumping money into renewable energy companies. In exchange, you get a voucher for a certain amount of renewable energy that you “used” during that period, even though you were actually burning up the same juice everyone else draws off the grid. You can read about this scheme at the EPA website. The RECs give you the right to claim the benefits of having used renewable energy without actually doing so.
The EPA still tracks such things and publishes a list of the biggest users of renewable energy. So even if you’re just plugged into the regular old power grid and using the same “dirty” energy as everyone else, if you buy enough of those RECs you can really make a name for yourself. Checking in at the linked site you’ll see that some of these companies have really gone above and beyond in terms of purchasing “credit” for renewable energy.
Companies at the 100% level include Intel, Microsoft, Apple and Cisco, which is impressive enough. But major department store Kohl’s managed to clock in at 115%. (!?!) But that’s nothing compared to Netflix, who used 298% renewable resources and Ikea managed 310%. That’s right. Ikea is listed as having consumed renewable energy at a rate more than three times the total amount of energy they actually consumed. It’s a Festivus miracle!
In actuality, these companies are using the same energy as everyone else, and less than one-fifth of it comes from renewables. If they actually want to get to 100% they need to move their facilities next to a waterfall, a very sunny desert region or a high ridge with a steady breeze. They can put up their own generators and create their own electricity in as green of a fashion as they like. And I’ll cheer them on for doing it! I believe in an all of the above energy strategy and if you can take some of the strain off the grid by brewing your own juice and cleaning up the planet, I say go for it. (I promise to not even complain about all the birds your wind farm is killing.) Just stop yanking our chains with your 100% renewable enrgy claims until you actually do it.