Buying renewables the new way to get businesses back in the black

Tech giants Google and Apple had both set a target to get all of their power from clean energy, and they both exceeded that target this year – well ahead of schedule.

By signing power purchase agreements (PPAs) to buy their power from big wind and solar farms, Google and Apple are now the world’s largest buyers of renewable energy, with Google currently pipping Apple for top spot. This has allowed both corporations to clean up their emissions while also controlling their costs.

Google began to explore PPAs in 2009, and signed its first agreement with a 114 MW wind farm in Iowa in the following year. Over the next six years, Google signed an additional 20 agreements, totalling nearly 2.6 GW of renewable energy generation around the world. By 2017, Google was buying more renewable energy than it needed to power its entire business, including its offices and data centres. This is a remarkable achievement considering that in 2015 its data centres consumed a similar amount of energy to the entire city of San Francisco.

Apple takes a bite out of emissions

Less than a week after Google announced that it had reached its 100 per cent renewable energy goal, Apple CEO Tim Cook also announced that his company’s global facilities were now completely powered by renewable energy. This includes Apple’s retail stores, data centres, offices and co-located facilities in 43 countries. And the tech giant has also taken the next step by asking its suppliers to do the same.

To date, Apple has 25 operational renewable energy projects globally, adding up to 626 MW of generating capacity. With another 15 projects currently under construction, Apple’s clean energy generation will eventually total 1.4 GW across 11 countries. In addition, Apple has signed a PPA with the Montague Wind Power Project, a 200 MW wind farm in Oregon that is set to come online by the end of 2019. Apple’s emission reduction efforts resulted in the company stopping 1.5 million metric tons of greenhouse gases from being emitted into the atmosphere in 2017.

Corporate PPAs Down Under

Back in Australia, it’s clear that the wheels are in motion when it comes to corporate PPAs. The Melbourne Renewable Energy Project (MREP) is a prime example of this, with 14 organisations coming together to purchase renewable energy from various projects. This ground-breaking agreement between different sectors in the economy is guaranteed to bring returns for the entire renewable energy industry. MREP involves organisations such as RMIT University, NAB and the City of Melbourne joining with energy partner Pacific Hydro through its retail arm Tango Energy. Pacific Hydro will build an 80 MW wind farm in the north-west of Victoria that will sell clean energy to the MREP partners. This will translate into an emission reduction of 96,800 tonnes per year over the lifespan of the decade-long deal.

Corporate PPAs are a sophisticated way for businesses to enter the renewable energy market and drive down their emissions and power costs. Whether you’re a large global player such as Google or Apple, a participant in an innovative new renewable energy partnership in Melbourne or a large beer brewer such as Carlton United Breweries (CUB), corporate PPAs are a win-win for all involved. Corporate PPAs allow renewables to flourish due to increased demand and investment, while reducing emissions and costs at the same time. As a recent report by the Climate Council found, almost half of Australia’s major businesses are moving towards clean energy in some form.

So maybe it’s time to stop trying to resurrect the glory days of our coal-driven past and start thinking forward to the glory days of clean energy. They’re just around the corner.