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.
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!