Fortune 500 Corporations Win with Renewable Energy Growth

Takeaways:

  • Financial institution surveys show high confidence in renewable energy growth over the next three years
  • Low investment costs, clean energy targets across U.S., increased corporate demand all driving growth
  • Beyond 2022? Need storage solutions, grid upgrades, markets that value flexible generating assets

Starbucks, like many Fortune 500 corporations, knows what it means to invest in and profit from renewable energy growth. The Seattle-based coffee company recently hit a milestone for wind and solar power generation, contracting enough clean electricity to fully power 3,000 of its stores. The trend is hardly new; big companies and investors have been seizing the economic opportunity of renewables for years. The question many firms may now be asking is: how best to sustain and grow their investments in renewables in a market seeing saturation?

Yet for Gregory Wetstone, president and CEO of the American Council on Renewable Energy, or ACORE, the moment to invest in renewable, low-carbon sources of energy couldn’t be better. He’s not alone. Financial institution surveys show high confidence in near-term renewable energy growth over the next three years, and their optimism boils down to five reasons:

  1. A low—and ever diminishing—cost of renewable power
  2. Expanded requirements for states to produce more clean electricity
  3. Increased demand from corporations
  4. The possibility of new carbon pricing legislation
  5. Utilities rushing to invest in renewables before tax credits expire

But Wetstone—whose organization last year launched a campaign to see the private sector invest $1 trillion in renewable energy and grid technologies by 2030—thinks greater progress is needed to sustain the boom. As he writes in Fortune: “In order to stay on track [after 2022], the renewable sector will need a modernized grid; electricity markets that fairly recognize the value of flexible, pollution-free renewable power; and a level playing field in the tax code.”

Yes, it is a tall order though a doable one, especially given today’s momentum among utilities, investors, and companies to invest in large-scale clean energy projects. Last year, the private sector pumped close to $57 billion into renewable and grid technologies mostly involving wind and solar.

With storage technology quickly evolving and city and state governments driving more dollars toward zero-carbon electricity projects, that number could grow. Until then, businesses will keep doing what they’re doing best: making green by going green.

What We’re Reading: “Renewable Energy is Booming. Here’s How to Keep It Going,” published on Fortune (with extracts)