This year’s annual National Renewable Energy Policy Forum, hosted by ACORE, took place on the heels of an important policy update for key technologies. In December 2015, Congress approved a combined tax and budget package giving wind and solar what amounts to between five and seven years of policy “certainty” for investors and developers. But tax policy is only one part of the equation. We got another important boost that same month from the successful international climate meetings in Paris where 129 nations came together and, in essence, agreed to move to a low-carbon economy. But just a few weeks later, the Supreme Court issued a surprising stay of EPA’s carbon-cutting regulatory initiative, the Clean Power Plan, which threw sand in the gears of an implementation effort that was just gaining momentum. The stay is likely to delay implementation efforts by more than a year, even as states respond in dramatically different ways. In the meantime, it will be up to the renewable sector and its allies to maintain the public and private sector momentum behind the shift to renewable generation.
Below is our quick overview of the key discussions and leading news stories emerging from this year’s Policy Forum. Three major stories reported on from this year’s Policy Forum:
Fortune 500 companies are at an all-time high in terms of value – some $17+ trillion dollars as of this time last year. The explosive growth of tech businesses in particular, Google, Amazon, Apple and many more, has set the standard for modern capitalism in terms of profits and advancement up the Fortune list. But one key to success for these companies has flown relatively under the radar: the sustainability-driven push towards using renewable energy.
This past March, the American Council On Renewable Energy (ACORE) used day one of its annual National Renewable Energy Policy Forum to highlight the work being done by corporate leaders to power their operations increasingly using clean, renewable energy. With over 150 companies having signed the White House’s American Business Act on Climate Pledge – covering $4.2 trillion in annual revenue and a combined market capitalization of over $7 trillion – Corporate America's commitment to clean energy is undeniable and growing rapidly. ACORE’s Corporate Procurement Working Group Executive Meeting: “Advancing Corporate Energy Solutions,” hosted many of these businesses, and highlighted several critical challenges and opportunities ahead of the sector as this trend continues.
Renewable energy is revolutionizing the global energy markets; in fact, in some regions, renewables are growing so quickly that they are the leading source of new generating capacity. As a larger and broader group of investors embrace renewables and incorporate them into their portfolios, they expect these assets to be well-managed, generating a steady financial return. Many of these new investors are not investing because they are “green”; they are doing so because of the attractive yields offered by these assets. As a result, developers and project managers should expect an increasing level of scrutiny from these new investors, requiring them to take a closer look at how they manage O&M (operations and maintenance) in the field as well as how they deal with asset management in the office.
After COP21 in Paris, there are still many questions being posed: how will the U.S., and the world, meet these ambitious emissions reductions targets? Will time run out before we can cut emissions enough to avoid the irreversible consequences of climate change? Should the U.S. turn to other technologies like nuclear generation to meet emissions targets? To answer these questions, many leaders from around the world are looking to Denmark to study how this small country has become a leader in implementing renewable energy solutions and serving as a catalyst for change. Within Denmark, one needs look no further than Samsoe for inspiration.
Over the next two weeks, leaders from around the world will convene in Paris for the United Nations Climate Change Conference, also known as COP21. This year, there is renewed, if cautious optimism about the possibility of a binding agreement among governments to act on this critical global issue.
But there’s another side to the climate change story that’s being written not in parliaments or at diplomatic summits, but in boardrooms and corporate executive suites.
In late September, I traveled to Virginia’s Eastern Shore to join Governor Terry McAuliffe and other state and local officials for his announcement of the Commonwealth’s issuance of its first permit for a new 80 megawatt solar facility that will be constructed in Accomack County. Amazon Web Services (AWS) has partnered with Community Energy to build the new installation — Amazon Solar Farm US East — and the project is expected to more than quadruple the amount of solar energy currently installed in Virginia. In his announcement, Governor McAuliffe said: “The partnership between Community Energy and Amazon Web Services, which will result in the largest solar facility in the mid-Atlantic, is indicative of the types of opportunities that my Administration is working toward through our commitment to build a new Virginia economy.”