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Reflections from Renewable Energy Markets 2018

Co-Authored by:  Amanda Mortlock, VP of Utility Partnerships, and Scott Eidson, VP of Environmental Markets

The annual Renewable Energy Markets conference was held recently in Houston, TX.  As usual, 3Degrees made a strong showing, with four of our team members participating on panels this year and several more in attendance.  REM always delivers an action-packed agenda filled with updates on industry trends and innovative programs from both the utility and corporate leaders in the room, as well as a fantastic opportunity to catch up with colleagues from across the country – and this year was no different.

REM covers a wide variety of interesting content in the two-day conference and it’s impossible to attend every session or provide a comprehensive recap. But our team divided and conquered throughout the event and then collected a few of our top takeaways. Here are the 3Degrees’ highlights:

The landscape in utility-offered voluntary renewable energy programs is shifting and igniting much discussion about how to grow and increase the relevance of these programs.

  • In states with high or increasing Renewable Portfolio Standards (RPS), utilities and regulators are wondering what a more renewable basic service means for voluntary renewable energy programs but customer preference is clear: customers want a voluntary means of driving demand for high-quality renewable energy.  Silicon Valley Power led an excellent roundtable talking about how they leveraged market research to make minor changes to their green power program as they moved their residential product to a 100% carbon free offering.
  • Utilities who are maximizing the value of their renewables programs are focused on both product design and successful marketing strategies.  Products are increasingly more complex in part to take into account the unique needs of each customer segment or even individual customers. Xcel Energy shared insights from their product design efforts, which led to one of the most successful and accessible green tariffs in the country, RenewableConnect.  Presenters at the Utility of the Future is Here session discussed trends in program marketing and customer acquisition ranging from digital channels and online marketplaces to new methods of leveraging call centers and strategies for small business outreach.  The bottom line: successful programs require good foundations and regular evolutions when it comes to both product design and marketing.

A few key emerging trends in corporate renewable energy procurement are helping to drive expansion across a range of sizes of customers.

  • At the top of the discussion list:  aggregation. The market is showing an increased appetite for aggregation, such as the deal that 3Degrees recently facilitated in the PJM energy market. There is a lot of enthusiasm for this model since it can help bring buyers with smaller energy loads into the mix; however, aggregation is still very new and there is a lot of room for refinement and simplification of the process.
  • In addition to aggregation, PPAs, VPPAs and RECs all very much play a continued role in corporate buyers’ renewable energy strategies. 

In the fight against climate change, Scope 1 emissions are increasingly in focus with opportunities for both electric & gas utilities, as well as corporates looking to address their fleet emissions.

  • With the success and growth of renewables leading the way, many utilities, companies, and consumers are now considering how they can have a meaningful impact on their scope 1 emissions — enter electric vehicles and renewable natural gas.   Both are compelling in terms of potential climate benefits and each offers an opportunity for electric or gas utilities to create new and impactful offerings for customers that align with the utility’s long-term interests as well.

What’s the role of policy and voluntary markets?

  • As policies for renewable energy increase and carbon policies are introduced, states need to think carefully about how to ensure these policies do not constrain private investments in renewable energy.
  • Companies continue to be driven by desires to support renewable energy faster than state policies are increasing.

While these are the discussion trends that stood out to our team the most this year, there were so many other interesting topics explored during the conference – it was hard to pick just a few!  And the hands-down winner of REM this year? Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner, talking about his Green Houston initiative, his involvement with the Climate Mayors, and the very personal way climate change has impacted his beloved city.  He was absolutely fantastic.

Thanks for a great time, Houston – and we’ll look forward to seeing all of our REM colleagues in San Diego next year!

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