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Businesses organize to make it easier to buy renewable energy: NPR



Power lines and power-generating wind turbines rise above the rural landscape on June 13, 2018, near Dwight, Ill. Powered by falling costs, global spending on renewable energy sources such as wind and sun has now exceeded investments in electricity from fossil fuels and nuclear power.

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Power lines and power-generating wind turbines rise above rural landscape on June 13, 2018, near Dwight, Ill. Powered by falling costs, global spending on renewable energy sources such as wind and sun has now exceeded investments in electricity from fossil fuels and nuclear power.

Scott Olson / Getty Images

Going green is often easier said than finished, but a new business organization hopes to change it. While focusing on large energy buyers, the group plans to push for changes that can make renewable power more accessible to all Americans.

Companies from a number of industries – including Walmart, General Motors, Google and Johnson & Johnson – form a trade association to represent businesses that buy renewable energy and remove barriers that make it difficult to shift away from carbon.

The new organization, The Renewable Energy Buyers Alliance, is based on years of work between companies and climate association organizations. Currently, around 200 companies, cities and universities are involved.

Miranda Ballentine, CEO of the new trading group, says the organization will help push energy markets and public policies to make it easier to actually choose to buy green energy.

It's more difficult than you might think for a company to choose renewable energy, Ballentine says.

"Especially in today's day and age, when we see many renewable energy technologies that meet or turn brown [conventional] electricity prices, you think," Hallelujah! The day has come, clean energy is here, we can now just go out and buy it. "But there are a number of barriers, she says.

One is the way energy markets are set up. They vary by region – some areas allow more choice than others, but in many places buyers cannot choose a source of energy from a tool.

"They can't really say," I want power from that wind project over there, "Ballentine says. "They can literally not contract directly for certain power sources."

In other cases, there are technological challenges. "Some renewable energy technologies such as wind and sun do not produce 24/7 – they produce when the sun is shining and when the wind is blowing," says Ballentine. "And we as energy consumers … we need our power 24/7," she says. ] REBA hopes to flex its purchasing power to support technological innovation and push tools to offer more green options – requires changes in public policy when needed.

"The demand side of the equation really has a unique role to play and really has a unique voice and ability to run the renergy market, says Ballentine.

Many companies have set green energy targets as part of overall sustainable efforts – either in a sense of social responsibility or in the pursuit of positive PR.

But Steve Chriss, Director of Energy and Strategy Analysis at Walmart, says there is also a financial calculation.

Walmart has "a great desire to operate as cleanly and sustainably as possible," he says. "But we also want to operate at the lowest possible cost. With renewable energy costs coming, we feel that renewable energy in a number of markets is the best cost option.

" It's not just a special game for the interests of a few [companies] who is really involved in it, he says. "It's really a business game to deliver the lowest possible resources."

Walmart, which operates on a massive scale, organizes several sources of renewable energy – from sun on the roof to complex arrangements with tools. Other companies may be interested in green power, but "don't necessarily have the scale or ability of a Walmart" to pursue those alternatives, says Chriss.

REBA will aim to open access to green energy to all its members, not just the most powerful megacities.

"As access points increase, more finished, economies of scale are reduced costs," chriss said ys. "We are trying to look for … to get to where renewable energy can be the lowest possible resource in all markets."

Priya Barua, senior manager of innovation innovation at the World Resources Institute, says the work of the new trade group can have implications far beyond its members. The Institute is one of the four non-profit organizations that helped to establish REBA.

"It not only creates opportunities for [corporate and industrial] customers, but uses collective purchasing power … to create options on the market that will benefit everyone."


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