Month: March 2019

A Conversation with Two Sustainability Innovators: Switch and Kaiser Permanente

Smart Energy Decisions Erin Craig

In the photo (L to R): Erin Craig – 3Degrees, Ramé Hemstreet – Kaiser Permanente, Sam Castor – Switch

Earlier this month, I moderated a panel on Innovative Approaches to Pursuing Sustainability Goals at the Smart Energy Decisions Innovation Summit in Houston, TX.  Given the need for urgent action on climate change, I was encouraged by the presence of so many corporate leaders in the energy space, many of whom were there to receive awards for their forward-thinking initiatives in energy, sustainability, and facility management.  

The guests on the panel were from Switch and Kaiser, two companies that highlight the different paths organizations may pursue to achieve their sustainability goals. Sam Castor, EVP of Policy & Deputy General Counsel for Switch, and Ramé Hemstreet, VP of Operations, National Facilities Services and Chief Energy Officer for Kaiser Permanente, were at the event because their respective companies were being recognized for their superior sustainability efforts. Switch and Kaiser Permanente’s initiatives offer two strong examples of how companies are approaching their goals to become carbon neutral.


Growth of the internet of absolutely everything has created an unprecedented demand for data centers. In fact, researchers believe the internet will consume 20% of the world’s power by 2025; managing the environmental footprint associated with these data centers is no small feat. Switch shared insights about how they are creating a sustainable technology ecosystem through a combination of energy efficiency, renewable power, and storage solutions.

Long before it was fashionable to be green, Switch recognized efficiency innovation was key to internet sustainability. Switch was the first multi-tenant colocation operator in the world to receive all A grades in sustainability from Greenpeace in their 2017 Clicking Clean Report. The company now has over 600 patented and patent pending claims to technologies supporting this purpose. Switch was also the first data center provider to be 100% renewably powered by local, purpose-built renewable projects. Today, Switch designs, builds, and operates some of the world’s most efficient and sustainable data centers.

Switch received a Smart Energy Decisions Innovation Award for their widely acclaimed energy efficiency program, which uses a suite of energy-efficient technologies that evolve with each new data center. In 2017, Switch implemented their technologies in Grand Rapids, MI. The “Switch Pyramid” is their first retrofit and includes hot and cold aisle containment to isolate server heat and concentrate server densities, as well as other key features that significantly reduce the facility’s power use and energy footprint. Additionally, Switch’s facilities in Northern Nevada include technologies designed for cold weather efficiency, and those in Michigan include new accommodations for humidity and wind.

As impressive as these energy efficiency efforts are, Switch’s commitment to sustainability doesn’t stop there. As Sam shared with us, the company is making significant progress with its innovative Gigawatt 1 initiative in Nevada, which will be the single largest solar portfolio project in the United States and produce some of the lowest priced solar power in the world. Switch has a goal of being carbon neutral by next year. Data runs the planet and Switch wants to ensure that it does not ruin the planet.

Kaiser Permanente

Kaiser Permanente is the nation’s largest nonprofit healthcare system and has a corporate sustainability goal to achieve carbon neutrality by 2020.  The company recognizes that one of the most effective ways to protect the health of the more than 68 million people in the communities it serves is by ensuring healthy environmental conditions. By investing in renewable energy and becoming carbon neutral, Kaiser Permanente is helping to prevent climate-related illness for people worldwide.

In September 2018, the company executed a virtual power purchase agreement for 181 MW of clean energy, enabling the construction of utility scale solar and wind farms and one of the country’s largest battery energy storage systems. In conjunction with earlier VPPAs and on-site solar generation, this solar plus wind plus battery project is the largest of its kind in North America and will provide enough clean, renewable energy to achieve 100% renewable electricity for all of Kaiser Permanente’s 36 hospitals and 400 medical office buildings in California.  

The project’s large battery energy storage system is paired with solar in California and wind in nearby Arizona, demonstrating the degree to which the company is proactively deploying new technologies to help operationalize a combination which makes the promise of a multi-faceted, highly-renewable grid one step closer to reality. This unique project is a great example of the kind of visionary thinking that’s critical to help to accelerate technology adoption and bring new renewable energy onto the grid.

Next up for Kaiser Permanente? Ramé shared that they’re tackling their scope 1 emissions (direct greenhouse gas emissions that occur from sources owned by the company) and are interested in investing in the creation of new emission reduction projects that generate carbon offsets and catalyze industry change.

At 3Degrees, we work with organizations who are at all stages of their sustainability journey. It’s always especially inspiring to partner with companies like Switch and Kaiser Permanente who are setting such a strong example of sustainability and renewable energy leadership.

Listen to Erin Craig and speakers from Switch, Comcast, and Kaiser Permanente discuss the innovative approaches they’ve used to procure renewable energy in this CDP hosted webinar.


Saint Louis University Achieves Renewable Energy Milestone

SLU is Missouri’s first institution of higher education to commit to match all electricity used in student residence halls with renewable energy through the Ameren Missouri Pure Power® Program.

Founded in 1818, Saint Louis University (SLU) is one of the oldest and most prestigious Catholic universities in the nation. 2018 marks its bicentennial and to continue the 200-year commitment to serve a higher purpose while always seeking the greater good, a student-led sustainability initiative was started four years ago to lead the effort to reach this milestone.

To match electricity used in residence halls, SLU purchased Renewable Energy Certificates (RECs) from Midwest wind farms through the Ameren Missouri Pure Power Program. By purchasing these RECs, SLU is able to prove that renewable energy was generated and added to the grid, and in turn, bolsters the renewable energy industry as a whole.

The initiative was headed by Douglas Fritz, now a senior who founded the student group, Green Billikens, and who also co-chairs the Sustainability Committee for the Student Government Association. “We made it happen during our bicentennial year, creating a campaign around sustainability that focuses on making our campus greener for the next 100 years,” Fritz said. “Pure Power is one of the many ways Ameren Missouri is providing affordable choices for customers who support and want to grow renewable energy in the Midwest,” said Tom Thompson, supervisor of energy services at Ameren Missouri.

3Degrees Business Development Manager, Debra Pottinger, worked closely with SLU to bring this project to fruition. Pottinger notes “During the first year, SLU will create the demand for 8,004 megawatt hours of electricity to be generated by Midwest Wind Farms and added to the Midwest power pool.”

By The Numbers

Greenhouse Gas Equivalents:

+ 1,427 vehicles off the road for a year or
+ 173,173 trees planted or
+ 239,496 incandescent bulbs switched to LED

Photo Credit: photo provided by Saint Louis University – Sustainability initiative leaders include (L to R) Laura Beilsmith, Green Billikens president, Douglas Fritz, Green Billikens founder & co-chair of the SGA Sustainability Committee, Laju Sudhakar, president of the Residence Hall Association and Antonio Hornstein, chair of the Green Billikens Renewable Energy Working Group.

Pacific Power’s Blue Sky and 3Degrees

Over 125,000 customers participate in innovative renewable energy program

In 2000, Pacific Power, a regulated utility serving customers across a six state region, launched its Blue SkySM renewable energy program. The program was well-received and steadily gained customers in its early years.

By 2004, Pacific Power was offering three different products within the program and went in search of a third party marketing partner. The utility had a strong desire to reach more of their service area, particularly regions in Oregon beyond their most urban service areas, while continuing to steadily grow the program year over year and was looking for a partner to help them achieve these goals.

3Degrees was awarded the business and is now in its 6th consecutive contract with Pacific Power. The 3Degrees/Pacific Power partnership is a great example of what true collaboration and innovative thinking can do for a voluntary renewable energy program and the results tell a pretty powerful story. 

3Degrees and Pacific Power 

3Degrees has provided program management support, marketing, outreach across the six state service area and REC supply services for the largest product offering in Oregon. The program has grown to exceed 125,000 residential and business participants through a suite of award-winning marketing and customer outreach tactics and is consistently ranked as one of the top renewable energy programs in the country by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory.

Klamath Falls Solar Farm

To address the unique challenges of selling a premium-priced renewable energy product to both rural and urban areas, across multiple states, serving a wide variety of customers with diverse motivations, 3Degrees and Pacific Power have developed a multi-pronged approach that focuses on:

1. Results-driven marketing plans:

Pacific Power and 3Degrees establish annual goals each year and then build a marketing plan that delivers on those objectives. Goals often include amplifying a core utility message, geo-targeting customers in a specific community and delivering on awareness or enrollment targets.

Portland thank you magazine ad

Thanks to 3Degrees’ subscription modeling, the program has always met or exceeded its targets for annual enrollments. As a result, it is entirely self-funded, which ensures the program can continue growing and delivering value for years to come.

2. Compelling products:

In 2016, 3Degrees took its innovative REC supply approach one step further by looking for new projects that needed long-term, premium REC purchase commitments to make the project viable. The team looked to identify renewable energy projects that had not yet been financed, worked with developers to determine the REC price needed to secure financing or get the project built and then signed long-term REC contracts to guarantee the income stream for multiple year periods.

This strategy drove the development of 51 megawatts (MWs) of additional renewable capacity in the state of Oregon, with the Huntington Wind project and Blue Basin Power, a solar project in southern Oregon. The ability to point to local projects that were developed directly from Blue Sky program participants’ support provides a unique and powerful messaging opportunity to both current and prospective program participants in the region.

Huntington Wind Farm


3. Customization:

The team recognizes that there is no “one size fits all” when it comes to compelling messaging for customers across all of Pacific Power’s regions. Thus, customization of marketing materials and message points is extremely important. To reach the 40 percent of Oregon customers living in Southern Oregon (an area that was previously under-enrolled), 3Degrees and Pacific Power worked to include RECs from a local landfill, established partnerships with local cities, and worked with Pacific Power to create campaigns leveraging local imagery and messaging. The results were an impressive 50 percent increase in participation over three years.

Targeted direct mail campaign


“We have worked hand-in-hand with the 3Degrees team for more than a decade; in that time they have helped us make our Blue Sky renewable energy program one of the top renewable energy programs in the country. 3Degrees’ expertise in program design and implementation has allowed us to continually evolve the Blue Sky program to keep it relevant to customers, the renewable energy market, and to the utility. We are proud to offer this program to our customers.”

–Berit Kling, Program Manager, Pacific Power Blue Sky