Big companies have been buying a lot of clean energy lately – 3.5 gigawatts of renewable capacity last year alone (a good chunk of all the capacity added*). These leaders, mostly consumer-facing brands like Google, Apple, Microsoft, Walmart, and IKEA, have been covering their roofs and filling giant fields with solar panels and wind turbines. To do this, they have mostly used power purchasing agreements (PPAs) to buy their clean power. Under this financing structure, the company contracts to buy kilowatts, not the turbines and panels. They put up almost no capital and usually lower their day-to-day energy costs.
It sounds like an easy win-win, but industrial companies have had a harder time making it all work for two key reasons: costs and accounting. First, due in large part to the scale and consistency of their energy purchasing, industrials already pay the lowest rates for power. Second, signing long-term power agreements for 15 to 20 years is hard for any company to swallow, and they often struggle with how to handle the accounting (is the contract a lease? Is it a liability, an asset, or something else?). This hurdle seems especially hard for old-school, more fiscally conservative entities.
So the PPA terms that retailers and tech companies sign have not worked for the heavy guys.