Month: July 2017

A pro-business success story: Why we need to protect the EPA Green Power Partnership

Fire Island

Scott Pruitt favors a major overhaul of the Environmental Protection Agency to create a regulatory environment that is friendlier to business. But if helping business is the goal, Secretary Pruitt should re-examine his agency’s excellent track record partnering with and supporting businesses, before defunding programs critical to their success.

A voluntary program that supports business

Voluntary purchases by corporate customers support job creation and project development, like this wind project on Fire Island in Alaska.

The EPA’s Green Power Partnership is one of several voluntary programs slated for elimination as part of the proposed unprecedented 31% roll-back in EPA funding. Launched by the Bush administration in 2001, the program has helped more than 1400 participants – Fortune 500 companies, small businesses, universities, municipalities, and other entities – achieve their clean energy goals. The program provides technical assistance to companies as they evaluate green power opportunities in the marketplace. It then rewards their leadership through public recognition of their voluntary procurement efforts.

By eliminating market barriers, the program enables forward-looking companies like Intel, Starbucks and Cisco to invest in smart solutions that reduce climate pollution and satisfy stakeholder demands for greater civic responsibility. For example, Starbucks accounts for 100% of its total electricity use – 970 million kWh annually – through green power generation and purchases. Altogether, participants in the Green Power Program use more than 36 billion kWh of green power annually, enough to power 3 million average US homes.

The Green Power Partnership: a successful model

The Green Power Partnership is a highly successful model for encouraging voluntary climate action that should be preserved, especially now that the administration seems determined to eliminate fossil fuel regulations and other climate protections. The National Renewable Energy Laboratory reports that voluntary purchases of clean energy account for more than 25% of total US non-hydropower renewable generation. The voluntary green power sector is a vital component of the clean energy industry, which is driving investment and job growth across the country at unprecedented rates. According to the US Department of Energy, clean energy investment in the US reached $45 billion by 2015. By 2016, solar job growth was 17 times faster than overall job creation. An administration that supports employment and economic growth should actively encourage corporations to leverage their size and buying power to accelerate clean energy development.

Eliminating the Green Power Partnership and other voluntary programs like Energy Star and Combined Heat and Power, would clearly signal the administration’s intent to thwart the rapid transition to clean energy. In this case, the administration would be wildly out-of-step with the business interests it purports to serve.

The Green Power Partnership includes many of the nation’s most profitable enterprises, largest employers, and most trusted brands. They understand that business can profit while safeguarding the planet for future generations.

We can expect these companies to continue to lead on climate, but they need the help of federal agencies to provide data and technical support, sound science and public policy. Partnership is a two-way street. The private sector has shown its willingness to rise to the challenge of climate change. It is now time for the Trump administration to do its part.

Akamai’s comprehensive approach to reducing greenhouse gas emissions

Akamai wind farm

Akamai Technologies, the world’s largest cloud delivery platform, recently invested in an 80 megawatt wind farm in Texas. This investment (through a PPA) is designed to match the company’s aggregated energy load in Texas with new renewable energy. The project, Seymour Hills Wind Farm, was developed by Infinity Renewables and came online in 2019.

This is the latest chapter in Akamai’s long-term approach to decarbonizing its operations. 3Degrees (originally Origin Climate) has been working with Akamai since 2015 to build and implement a renewable energy strategy.

Laying the foundation

Our first project together laid the foundation when we worked with Akamai to analyze its worldwide energy use. Akamai’s energy use is not large or concentrated, but is rather small and distributed throughout outsourced data centers, beyond its operational control. With Akamai’s challenge in mind, we analyzed several alternatives including tax equity investments, virtual power purchase agreements and long-term renewable attribute purchases. We looked at environmental impacts as well as cost, benefits and risk they might entail. The Akamai team used this analysis to establish a strategy and start to engage company stakeholders.

Setting a greenhouse gas and renewable energy goal

To formalize its strategy and ensure company-wide alignment, Akamai decided to set a formal renewable energy and climate goal. 3Degrees benchmarked more than 30 other companies, calculated baseline performance for key metrics, and projected those into the future, taking into account company growth estimates, the changing grid around the world, and the impact of actions Akamai could take.

In addition to the analytical work, we helped Akamai build the materials needed to educate internal stakeholders. As a result, Akamai’s Board of Directors adopted a goal to power 50% of the company’s global network operations with renewables by 2020, and to achieve an absolute reduction in greenhouse gas emissions over the same timeframe.

“The team from 3Degrees has been instrumental in helping us set goals, develop a strategy and implement projects. With its help we have been able to find new ways to invest in renewable energy that meet our business objectives.”

– Dr. Nicola Peill-Moelter, Akamai Senior Director of Environmental Sustainability

Executing the plan with an innovative PPA

With the goal in place, the company was ready to begin executing its plan. Given Akamai’s load distribution and favorable development environment, the Texas power market was selected for its first procurement. 3Degrees worked with the Akamai team to develop the procurement specs and manage the RFI and RFP process, including developer interviews. We reviewed proposals, conducted financial analysis and due diligence, provided a project recommendation and assisted with developer negotiations, accounting policies and other details.

“Only recently have companies like Akamai with small, distributed loads been able to make a meaningful impact on decarbonizing operations that go beyond purchasing unbundled renewable energy credits. We believe this can be a model for others and we’re excited to help lead the way.”

– Jim Benson, Akamai EVP and CFO

In May 2017 Akamai signed a deal to source energy from an 80 megawatt wind project in Texas. The project came online in 2019. Akamai is offsetting the energy use from its Texas cloud services operations, which are largely housed in co-location data centers. The Texas commitment represents about seven percent of Akamai’s global power load. They continue to pursue other initiatives to meet its renewable energy and climate goals.

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