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Imagining the Future of Corporate Renewable Energy Procurement

  • Date: 09 June 2016
  • Author: Marty Spitzer, WWF director of climate and renewable energy policy
  • Comments

2016 Renewable Energy Buyers Alliance (REBA) Summit

The clean energy future isn’t wishful thinking anymore. Businesses, governments, cities and people across America are building it far quicker than many realize. Businesses are investing for many reasons – climate change is a real risk to their businesses and the communities they operate in so they are setting ambitious goals to address it; the economics work; technologies are reliable and cheaper than ever; and the momentum among the world’s governments at COP 21 last December added a strong boost. But just how fast are businesses moving?

Well, imagine the collaborative power of nearly 300 of the most creative minds in corporate renewable energy procurement gathered for two days at the innovation-inspiring Microsoft Campus in Redmond, Washington for the 2016 Renewable Energy Buyers Alliance Summit. With 100 corporate renewable energy buyers from a who’s who of American business, roughly the same number of renewable energy developers and service providers, 15 utilities, some financiers, and partners from the NGO community, never has such a large and accomplished group of sustainability leaders convened for the purpose of sharing knowledge, networking, and brainstorming ways to accelerate the clean energy future through innovative corporate renewable energy purchasing.

The summit was held by the newly launched Renewable Energy Buyers Alliance (REBA), a brainchild of four leading NGOs that joined together to grow corporate demand for renewable power and facilitate the supply to meet it. REBA brings together 3 major initiatives. World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and World Resources Institute’s (WRI) Corporate Renewable Energy Buyers’ Principles, Rocky Mountain Institute’s (RMI) Business Renewables Center and Business for Social Responsibility’s (BSR) Future of Internet Power.

The summit was powerful. It was not only an “ah ha” moment for many as they realized how big the corporate buying movement has become, but also an emotional experience for many. In our professional careers we don’t often get a chance to be inspired by and inspire others, but the summit allowed all of us to realize we have created a community –a new community—of people working towards scaling renewable energy. This community is what we’ll need to meet REBA’s audacious goal to deploy 60 gigawatts (GWs) of new corporate renewable energy in the US by 2025. That’s double the wind power that was online at the end of 2014 and enough electricity to power more than 14 million US homes. REBA is hoping to do something revolutionary – power a corporate movement towards a clean energy future.

Setting an ambitious tone for the Summit, Microsoft President Brad Smith kicked us off with encouraging remarks about Microsoft’s commitment to power more than 50 percent of its data center needs with renewable energy sources by 2018.

  • Microsoft President Brad Smith

    Microsoft President Brad Smith kicked off the REBA Summit with encouraging remarks about his company’s commitment to power more than 50 percent of its data center energy needs with renewable energy sources by 2018.

  • Michael Polsky,  Bill Weihl, Jonathan Weisgall, Letha Tawney

    Michael Polsky (President and CEO of Invenergy), Bill Weihl (Director of Sustainability at Facebook), and Jonathan Weisgall (VP of Government Affairs at Berkshire Hathaway Energy) joined moderator Letha Tawney (Director of Utility Innovation at World Resources Institute) for a lively panel discussion on sourcing renewables in regulated markets.

  • Lily Donge, Mike Terrell, Lori Duvall, Steve Skarda, Brian Janous

    Lily Donge (Principal at Rocky Mountain Institute) moderated a panel discussion on how leading renewable energy buyers set a national procurement strategy. Distinguished panelists include Mike Terrell (Principal, Energy and Global Infrastructure, Google), Lori Duvall, Global Director of Green, eBay), Steve Skarda (Global Climate and Energy Leader, Procter & Gamble), and Brian Janous (Director of Energy Strategy, Microsoft).

  • Networking Reception

    On the eve of the summit, NextEra Energy Resources hosted a networking reception at the beautiful Golf Club at Newcastle, overlooking the Seattle skyline, Lake Washington, and the Olympic and Cascade Mountains.

  • REBA plenary session

    About 300 corporate renewable energy buyers, providers, financiers, and utilities participated in the 2016 REBA Summit on May 19-20, 2016.

  • REBA NGO Leaders

    The summit was organized by four leading NGOs that form the Renewable Energy Buyers Alliance (REBA): World Wildlife Fund (WWF), Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI), World Resources Institute (WRI), and Business for Social Responsibility (BSR). These four NGOs manage three initiatives committed to increasing the use of renewable energy among the world’s leading corporations: Corporate Renewable Energy Buyers’ Principles (led by WWF and WRI); Business Renewables Center (led by RMI), and Future of Internet Power (led by BSR). In this photo Kelly Gallo (BSR), Marty Spitzer (WWF), Letha Tawney (WRI), and Hervé Touati (RMI) discuss the unique collaboration between the NGOs in promoting the REBA partnership.

  • Networking Reception

    Although the REBA summit had a jam-packed schedule filled with plenaries, panel discussions, deep dives, and table topic sessions, attendees found ample time to network with peers during breaks and networking breakfasts and lunches.

  • Marty Spitzer, Herve Touati

    Marty Spitzer, Director of U.S. Climate and Renewable Energy Policy for WWF, and Hervé Touati, Managing Director at RMI, discussed the state of the renewables market on day one of the REBA Summit.

  • REBA summit deep dive registration

    REBA Summit participants registered for deep dive and table topic sessions designed to facilitate knowledge sharing, problem solving, and collaboration among buyers, developers, utilities, and other renewable energy stakeholders. Six deep dive sessions and 16 table topics were offered during the 2016 REBA Summit.

  • REBA topic session report outs

    Volunteers from each of the 16 table topic sessions met to discuss report outs to the larger group. Summit attendees took advantage of text polling to determine which topics merited further consideration by REBA organizers. Among the most popular topics were second generation green tariffs, bringing in smaller buyers, and non-fixed price PPAs.

  • Microsoft Campus

    The 2016 REBA Summit took place May 19-20, 2016, at the Microsoft Campus in Redmond, WA.

  • REBA topic session report outs

    REBA Summit participants worked in smaller groups to tackle pressing issues relating to renewable energy purchasing, policy, and strategy. Teams reported their findings to the larger group during plenary sessions.

  • REBA summit organizers

    REBA Summit organizers from RMI, BSR, WRI, and WWF posed for a group photo following the successful completion of the event. Feedback from participants was extremely positive, with most agreeing that the summit provided a wealth of information and networking opportunities.

A frank and lively discussion with three industry ‘gurus’ – Michael Polsky, President and CEO of Invenergy, Bill Weihl, director of sustainability at Facebook, and Jonathan Weisgall, VP of government affairs at Berkshire Hathaway Energy – offered a glimpse of a future in which buyers, utilities and developers collaborate to meet customer needs in regulated markets.

Injecting the latest data and trends on the state of the renewables market, I joined with Hervé Touati, managing director at RMI to describe the growing ambition of corporate climate and renewable energy goals, recent corporate purchasing trends, favorable and challenging market conditions, new utility interest and products, and the growing appetite of corporate buyers to influence policies needed to speed renewables procurement.

During the rest of the day, participants broke into smaller groups to tackle unique RE challenges and find new solutions. Kicking off day 2, we heard from four leading renewable energy buyers – Mike Terrell, principal for energy and global infrastructure at Google; Lori Duvall, director for global impact at eBay; Steve Skarda, global climate and energy leader at Procter & Gamble; and Brian Janous, director of energy strategy at Microsoft – on the importance of bringing utility-offered “green tariffs on steroids to the market,” opening opportunities for smaller buyers, taking the Buyers’ Principles global and mapping international markets and policies. And, these are some of the key issues we are taking on in the coming months.

When all was said and done, the REBA Summit displayed the power of collaboration in its most creative, energetic and tangible form. If we continue to act together to create and scale solutions there’s nothing we can’t accomplish together. Together, it’s possible!

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