Corporate push to renewables grows, with IBM, Walmart, Dow Chemical

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Huge new wind PPAs for Walmart and Dow Chemicals; IBM commits to source 20% of electricity from wind, hydro, biomass, and solar by 2020.

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It might be beyond the Australian government to commit to a renewable energy target right now, but outside of politics the commercial world seems to be getting on with it, with more and more big corporates building renewables into their business plans.

Ranging from major power purchase agreements to commercial solar installations and company targets, the past year has seen some of the world’s biggest business success stories – Google, Apple, IKEA, Walmart – make huge commitments to sourcing and generating renewable energy, and not just because its clean.

As Recharge notes, the corporate shift towards renewables targets and power off-take agreements highlights the increasing cost-competitiveness of wind and solar, as well as the public’s appreciation for them. It’s just smart business.

This week, International Business Machines Corporation – or IBM – became the latest to join the movement, pledging to source 20 per cent of its electricity from a mix of wind, large and small hydro, biomass, and solar installations by 2020.

According to Recharge, IBM says the target means it will be obliged to “contract” more than 800,000MWh of renewable electricity each year by 2020, enough to power a city of 100,000 people. The company has about 430,000 employees globally.

Rather than buying renewable energy credits, IBM says it will “match” the renewable electricity it purchases directly with its operations.

A company spokesperson told Recharge IBM had been preferencing renewable energy for some time now – a task that had been easiest in Europe, where renewable electricity was already offered as an option in many countries.

“While it’s not as common in other geographies, we continue to request the inclusion of electricity generated from renewable sources as an option in our contracts in all geographies,” she said.

The IBM news on Thursday followed that from the day before, that US retail giant, Walmart – already a big installer of solar, commercially – had signed 40MW PPA with French renewables developer Akuo Energy, to buy electricity from its under-construction Rocksprings wind farm in Texas.

The wind farm, the Paris-based Akuo’s first project in the US, is due for completion in the third quarter of 2016, and is located near Del Rio, Texas, along the border with Mexico.

Walmart has agreed to buy 40MW of the output from the project’s first 95MW phase over a period of 12 years. Ultimately, the Rocksprings wind farm will be expanded to 180MW.walmart-solar-stores

The deal is expected to provide electricity to more than 350 Walmart stores as well as its distribution centres, and to help the retailer meet its company target of procuring seven billion kWh of renewable energy globally by 2020.

Walmart, the largest US private-sector employer, has previously signed a variety of wind PPAs in the US and abroad. Last November it signed a major contract with SolarCity to continue installing PV systems on stores across the US.

Last week, meanwhile, Dow Chemical sealed one of the largest wind energy deals by an industrial customer in the US, signing a 15-year, 200MW power off-take agreement with developer Bordas Wind Energy, to supply its manufacturing complex in Freeport, Texas.

The company’s first large-scale agreement for wind power will cover 10-15 per cent of the overall power consumption at the Freeport site – the largest integrated chemical manufacturing complex in the Western Hemisphere.

The wind farm is expected to be in commercial operation in early 2016.

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