Accelerating Renewables in the Fortune 500

Last week, RMI’s program to significantly scale the commitment by Fortune 500 companies to source renewable energy was chosen as one of six winners at the Bloomberg New Energy Finance Summit’s Finance for Resilience (“FiRe”) event. FiRe is designed to identify the best proposals to spur increased investment in renewables and scale them as quickly as possible.

RMI’s plan is to create a Business Renewables Resource Center that will help to double clean energy cash flows by 2019 by increasing clean energy procurement by large commercial and industrial companies. While the Center will initially focus on the U.S. market, the capability will effectively travel within these large corporations to other countries.

The majority of the largest global companies have publicly set ambitious greenhouse gas reduction goals, many of which require significant renewable energy solutions. Yet, as of the middle of last year, only 25 large companies had together put in place about 1,000 solar photovoltaic installations in the U.S. And although some companies such as Walmart and Google have gotten into the game at serious scale, investment by the majority of large companies remains small compared to their energy profiles.

Commercial and industrial companies, collectively a major player for scaling renewables—especially wind and solar—are currently sitting on the sidelines. We see these non-energy, non-finance large companies, which together represent about half of all commercial and industrial energy demand, as ripe for transformation.

What does it take to help large corporations to get renewables sourcing deals done?  Completing procurement and investment renewable energy deals needs a sophisticated and very persistent transaction team. Struggling to green light renewable energy deals, most find themselves unfamiliar with current practices and daunted by a rapidly changing marketplace. Large-scale investment in renewable energy projects requires that key decision makers in the procurement, finance, legal, and accounting departments all have access to information that is pertinent to real-world deal making. Today, that information is expensive, hard to find, and often not readily available to companies unless they have a specific energy focus.

RMI aims to change that paradigm with a renewables resource center that offers:

  • Direct access to expert corporate transaction teams (procurement, legal, finance, accounting)
  • Educational materials and case studies that are broadly available to help senior decision makers approve deals
  • Resources for expanding geographically bounded opportunities
  • Demand aggregation and auction platforms

It will disseminate pertinent information, often as a direct conduit, to top-tier experts and corporate transactional staff in an affordable, broad, and meaningful way. The Center will provide education for transaction staff, offer bootcamps for senior executives, and publish case studies that detail how peer companies have successfully overcome the challenges.

We expect the impact to be very large: More than $15 billion in new renewables investment per year will occur by 2019 that would not happen otherwise.

Quickly, the number of blue chip, bankable customers ready to purchase significant renewable assets will multiply—and will no longer consist primarily of energy and financial companies who are just intermediaries. Project developers will thrive and learning curves will continue to drive down costs, drawing in more companies across more diverse geographies. Big business can make the renewable business truly big.

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