Amazon Backs 26 Green Projects in Drive to Renewable Energy

At-a-Glance

Amazon.com Inc. made an announcement in December to say it was backing 26 new wind and solar utility projects around the globe, a massive investment that the company said made it the largest corporate buyer of renewable energy. The retail and technology company said the utility-scale projects, located in Australia, France, Germany, Italy, South Africa, Sweden, the U.K. and the U.S., would have the capacity to produce 3.4 gigawatts of electricity. To learn more, read “Amazon Backs 26 Green Projects in Drive to Renewable Energy.” Reading this article could require a subscription.

Key Takeaways

  • In 2019, Google was the largest corporate buyer of renewable energy and claimed the previous high water mark that year with a 1.6 gigawatt purchase in a single announcement.
  • “Amazon is helping fight climate change by moving quickly to power our businesses with renewable energy,” Amazon Chief Executive Officer Jeff Bezos said in a statement.
  • Amazon has said it aims to power its operations with renewable energy sources by 2025, five years ahead of an earlier target, and to become carbon neutral 15 years later.
  •  Including the new deals, Amazon has backed 127 wind and solar projects, with 6.5 gigawatts of capacity.

Path to 100% Perspective

Ambitious renewable energy goals make headlines every week, with some organizations competing for the title of energy leader. This form of competition is accelerating the path to decarbonization through strategic investments in emerging technologies and innovative ways to integrate renewable energy into business plans and power systems. As more organizations join forces to find solutions designed to decrease carbon emissions, the marketplace and utility sector are able to more easily visualize a renewable energy future on the horizon.

 

Photo by Bryan Angelo on Unsplash

Next Era’s Bet on Renewable Energy Was a Winner All Along

At-a-Glance

NextEra Energy Inc. started becoming a green giant in 2002. At the time wind was still a more expensive way to generate electricity than coal, but not drastically so. NextEra had no doubt seen the cost dropping quickly and figured it would keep the same trajectory in the future. In short order, it put a similar strategy into a batch of solar plants. To learn more, read “Next Era’s Bet on Renewable Energy Was a Winner All Along.” Reading this article could require a subscription. 

Key Takeaways

  • NextEra Energy was betting, essentially, on Wright’s Law, a theory of industrial production born, like the utility, in the 1920s. Wright was studying airplane makers and found that with each doubling of capacity, cost declined by a similar amount. Essentially: if you build it, you will save.
  • Not only did NextEra utilize Wright’s cost curve correctly, but it leveraged government subsidies – often at the state level – to build plants before they would be profitable on their own. 
  • NextEra’s wind and solar farms, now scattered across about half the U.S., produce enough power to energize Greece. The company has plans to nearly double its renewable capacity to be able to power 11 million homes, which is about 10 percent of the country. 

Path to 100% Perspective

Visionaries have a valuable skill set which allows them to study the past and present trends as well as “lessons learned” to develop strategies for the future. NextEra has proven to be a trailblazer for utilities in their deliberate and ambitious approach to transition to renewable energy. Their investments are aligned with their increasing goals, which is proving to serve as an example to organizations throughout the energy sector.

 

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NextEra Now More Valuable Than Exxon as Clean Power Eclipses Oil

At-a-Glance:

NextEra Energy Inc., the world’s biggest provider of wind and solar energy, is now more valuable than oil giant Exxon Mobil Corp., once the largest public company on Earth. NextEra ended Wednesday, October 7, with a market value of $145 billion, topping Exxon’s $142 billion. The oil major’s U.S. rival, Chevron Corp., also surpassed it in value for the first time. To learn more, read “NextEra Now More Valuable Than Exxon as Clean Power Eclipses Oil.” (Reading this article requires a subscription.)

Key Takeaways:

  • NextEra has emerged as the world’s most valuable utility, largely by betting big on renewables, especially wind.
  • NextEra had about 18 gigawatts of wind and solar farms at the end of last year, enough to power 13.5 million homes. And it’s expanding significantly, with contracts to add another 12 gigawatts of renewables. Its shares have surged more than 20% this year.
  • At the same time, Exxon’s shares have tumbled more than 50% as the pandemic quashed global demand for fuels. The company’s second-quarter loss was its worst of the modern era and, in August, Exxon was ejected from the Dow Jones Industrial Average.
  • The company was worth $525 billion in 2007, more than three times its current value.

Path to 100% Perspective:

The global economic shift away from fossil fuels continues to become more evident as more public commitments are being announced and financial milestones such as this one are making history. However, continued efforts to reach renewable energy goals are still being monitored worldwide as organizations and governments are piecing together innovative solutions and strategic partnerships designed to pave a path to a renewable energy future.

 

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This is How the Government Can Ramp Up Climate Tech Investment

At-a-Glance:

The last couple of weeks have brought a steady stream of new pledges to achieve net-zero carbon emissions within the next handful of decades. And yet a report released in September, by the International Energy Agency, estimated that roughly half of the technologies that will be needed to get to net zero globally by 2050 aren’t even commercially available yet. The secret of deep decarbonization is that it won’t happen by just plugging into a wind farm or buying carbon offsets in a tropical forest. Without new technologies, it will be impossible to rein in emissions from the most-carbon intensive sectors of the economy such as heavy industry and long-distance transport. To learn more, read “This is How the Government Can Ramp Up Climate Tech Investment.”  (Reading this article requires a subscription.)

Key Takeaways:

  • Physicist Varun Sivaram sees the first step is to establish a National Energy Innovation Mission and create a White House Task Force to coordinate spending across different federal agencies. Sivaram and his team include a draft executive order in the report so the next administration can just plug and play.
  • Step two is to ramp up spending on energy innovation research and development from the current rate of about $9 billion a year to at least $25 billion by 2022.
  • The plan breaks down decarbonization into 10 categories where breakthroughs must occur. These include clean fuels, clean agricultural systems, carbon capture use and sequestration, and carbon removal.
  • One of the most persuasive moments in the report comes in a chart showing the disconnect between the sectors in the U.S. responsible for emissions and the corresponding research budget through the Department of Energy. Electricity produces 27% of emissions but gets 47% of the research dollars, while industry produces 22% of the emissions but receives 6% of the innovation funding.
  • The proposed budget would remedy that by adding money to underfunded areas, such as tripling the money for carbon capture from $115 million a year to $300 million.

Path to 100% Perspective:

Government economic stimulus must go beyond merely boosting the amount of renewables, but should also support system flexibility. We don’t just need wind turbines and solar panels but also energy storage, optimization platforms and flexible power plant technology to balance the influx of renewables. Energy storage and digital optimization is already becoming essential as we increase the amount of renewables on the grid to manage the volatility of wind and solar. Flexible gas engine technology is ready to use future fuels such as green hydrogen and synthetic methane derived from renewable energy sources (Power-to-X). These will help to balance out the longer-term needs of the grid, that can’t be matched by shorter duration energy storage.

 

Photo: Luke Sharrett/Bloomberg