The Elephant in the Room: Scope 3 and Upfront Carbon

Embodied, upfront, associated – what do all these words have in common?  They are all used to describe the carbon emitted to create buildings, products, and even renewable energy infrastructure before they are operational. Wind turbines and solar panels give us zero-carbon electricity, but that does not mean they have a zero-carbon footprint. The upfront carbon comes from the production of steel, aluminum, and various minerals that make our zero-carbon electricity possible.  If we want a zero-carbon future, we must address these emissions that exist deep in supply chains.

The REBA Institute, an affiliate of REBA, sat down with Ryan Spies from Saint-Gobain and REBA Board Chair, and Phil Rausch from Hemlock Semiconductor (HSC) to understand the challenge of upfront carbon and discuss how companies can work together reduce emissions in some of the most carbon-intensive, heavy industrial sectors.  Upfront carbon from industrial commodities and related heavy-duty transport represent 30% of annual carbon emissions globally, and in many cases become part of long-lived infrastructure like buildings or solar panels.  Because of this, Ryan noted, “what we do 50 years from now is not nearly as important as what we do today.”

For many companies, upfront carbon also shows up in their Scope 3 emissions, which can be larger than Scope 1 and 2 combined, and harder to tackle for individual companies. As Phil said, the “Scope 3 emissions bucket is the elephant in the room that everyone wants to address but doesn’t know how.” 

Ryan and Phil both identified a major challenge as the lack of communication between the consumer of end products and the producer of industrial commodities at the beginning of the supply chain. Producers do not hear the demand-pull from consumers; therefore, they are not incentivized to supply low carbon materials.  The REBA Institute’s new initiative, Decarbonizing Industrial Supply Chain Energy (DISC-e), aims to solve this problem by aggregating and amplifying the demand-side voice for lower carbon industrial commodities.  

The DISC-e initiative is leading a series of workshops with stakeholders to identify an industrial commodity or supply chain where companies can collectively have the greatest impact and reduce the upfront carbon that ends up in their buildings, products, or solar panels.  In the final two DISC-e workshops, participants will align on one or two focus areas and then transition to developing a strategy for impact in the spring. 

Get Involved

If your company would like to join this effort or stay apprised of progress, you can join the January 19 workshop or reach out to for more information.

2020 Recap: Greening the Grid for All

A look back at how REBA’s members advanced policy and market evolution to support clean energy.

REBA’s Innovations team set a transformative goal to green the grid for all by advocating for policies and market structures that dramatically increase the amount of zero-carbon energy delivered to all energy consumers.  

In 2020, two big trends underpinned our efforts: 

  1. Companies willingness to step up and out on energy policy issues, ranging from weighing in on Federal renewable energy incentives to backing a call for organized wholesale markets to expand all regions of the country. 
  1. Leading companies evolving approaches to shift from procuring renewable energy to match their annual consumption, to consuming zero-carbon energy, when and where they use it on the grid. 

Paving the way for REBA’s long-term policy and markets strategy to elevate the energy buyer voice in policy discussions and advance evolving needs was the release of the REBA Institute’s (a REBA affiliate) Renewable Energy Policy Pathways Report. The analysis found that ultimately retail choice has the greatest technical potential for increasing access to renewable energy while decreasing costs, but all three pathways analyzed, including utility programs and increased RPS, have vital, complementary roles to play in expanding renewable energy access. Importantly, the analysis determined that participation in organized markets makes any pathway cheaper and more efficient.  


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Source: Data compiled by Renewable Energy Buyers Alliance©

The release of REBA’s Organized Wholesale Market Principles gained notable traction across the energy market further emphasizing the important role markets will play in accelerating a zero-carbon energy system by equipping key market stakeholders with pathways that support ambitious energy goals.  

While this year was unprecedented due to COVID-19, the pandemic reaffirmed our work and the importance of driving a clean energy economy and recovery. REBA joined over 30 industry leading companies, many of whom are REBA members, in submitting a letter urging Congress to include clean energy provisions in a COVID-19 relief and recovery spending package.  

Additionally, the Innovations Team, along with several REBA members, participated in the MISO transmission planning process, ensuring the buyer voice was present at meetings and conveying to policymakers the market barriers transmission congestion poses to renewable energy access.  

The 2021 policy pendulum will swing in the favor of clean energy, and we have the chance to make dramatic progress on zero-carbon future complementary policies and market evolution. The Innovations team will partner with REBA members to ensure the priorities of energy buyers accelerate are heard and understood by key policymakers and the incoming Administration. Advancing the work to green the grid for all will focus on wholesale marketsutility data harmonization, and action on clean tech innovation and deployment.  

Get Involved

We’re heading into 2021 with renewed effort for meaningful climate action and we hope you’ll join us.  

2020 Recap: Demand signals for deep decarbonization

A look back at how REBA’s members have sent demand signals across supply chains and international markets for clean energy.

In 2020, the number of companies committing to take climate action by setting science-based targets (SBTs) surpassed 1,000 worldwide – and this number continues to grow! Consistent with this rise, we have also seen increased interest from companies in addressing their scope 3 emissions – or the emissions produced from upstream and downstream activities within a company’s full value chain.1  

Throughout the year, we have seen companies working more closely with their supply chain partners on energy sustainability. REBA’s Supply Chain and International Collaboration team published the Supply Chain Partner Engagement Roadmap to accelerate meaningful supply chain climate action with step-by-step guidance for energy buyers engaging their supply chain partners.  

Energy buyers have also been motivated to address tough supply chain sectors that are challenging for individual companies to decarbonize, such as leased spaces. REBA’s Lessor Sustainable Energy Network (LESSEN) was established to train landlords and data center owners on sustainable energy strategies to help reduce emissions from buildings and meet energy goals. The Future of Internet Power (FoIP)continues to evolve with support from key stakeholders to develop solutions for energy management and renewable procurement by data service providers. 

If you’re noticing an emerging trend of companies eager to drive impact in markets beyond the U.S., you’re right, and if you guessed that it can be daunting to navigate the complexities of deep decarbonization in nascent international energy markets you get bonus points. 

The Decarbonizing Industrial Supply Chain Energy (DISC-e) initiative launched in 2020 to address industrial sector emissions, which are a primary driver of energy-related greenhouse gas emissions growth globally. The initiative will partner with key market leading companies to identify the industrial commodity with the highest emissions reductions impact, and partner with these companies to send demand signals to supply chain partners. REBA’s International Connection Platform was created to foster buyer-to-buyer connections in energy markets worldwide, as was a monthly discussion series,Worldwide Wednesdays.  

In 2021, we will build on the foundation created in 2020 and continue to support REBA members with their supply chain and international procurement goals. Equipped with the tools, resources, and community of the SCIC program, REBA members and their supply chain partners will be a leading force driving the rapid transition to a cleaner, prosperous, zero-carbon energy future in markets worldwide. 

Get Involved

We’re heading into 2021 with renewed effort for meaningful climate action and we hope you’ll join us.  

REBA Member Highlight: McDonald’s

We must find a way, through our collective scale to democratize clean energy for all. We all must use our scale for good to make our work meaningful and impactful for the rest of the world.

I think we can all agree, 2020 has been quite an impactful year. Our world has been through its fair share of challenges – from a devastating pandemic and health crisis, to coming to terms with and addressing the racial injustice and disparity within our society, just to name a few. However, through these turbulent times, it has remained abundantly clear that we must not waver our focus on investing in the health of our planet for future generations. Despite all of the challenges, I am grateful that our renewable energy work at McDonald’s has not only remained steadfast, but it has continued with added commitment and voracity. I feel proud to work for a company that believes in the long-term investment in sustainability and climate action—not just for the McDonald’s system, but for our customers and communities around the world.

When we initially set our science based target in 2018, it became apparent that renewable energy would have to play a large role in getting us to our goal. In 2019, McDonald’s USA signed two long-term VPPA transactions, one wind and one solar, located in Texas. On December 7th, 2020, we announced the addition of three more deals in the U.S. With the addition of these deals, To date, McDonald’s USA is #2 among US corporate buyers of renewable energy in 2020.

The three new projects (two wind farms and one portfolio of solar projects) are slated to be built in Illinois, Oklahoma, North Carolina and Ohio.

Combined, McDonald’s share of the five projects will have a total capacity of 1130 megawatts – how much energy does that actually represent? That’s enough to power about 8,000 McDonald’s restaurants. The solar panels alone would cover the surface area of New York’s Central Park seven times. McDonald’s share of the projects will help prevent about 2.5 million metric tons of greenhouse gases per year once online –  equivalent taking 500,000 cars off the road for one year. 

Collectively, the impact of these deals also represents a sizable step toward our global restaurants and offices climate action target to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 36% by 2030, from a 2015 base year. Once online, the emissions reductions from these five deals will take us about halfway to our target.

As you can see from the sheer volume of our renewable energy procurement over the last two years, impact is the name of the game… but are we capable of more?

While we at McDonald’s are very proud of our own progress in renewable energy procurement, the next chapter of our work is really focused on continuing that momentum, but with more collaboration. We must collaborate with:

  • Brands, both big and small,
  • Governments, to advance clean energy legislation,
  • Utilities and electricity suppliers, to improve on and expand infrastructure, and
  • Communities that need the benefits that come with having access to clean energy.

We must find a way, through our collective scale to democratize clean energy for all. We all must use our scale for good to make our work meaningful and impactful for the rest of the world.

McDonald’s is committed to collaboration for greater impact, are you?

Get Involved

Learn more about key resources available for REBA members pursuing climate and energy goals.

REBA Member Highlight: Toyota Motor North America

Toyota joins REBA community to support its ambitious 2050 Environmental Challenge.

Image credit: Toyota North American Environmental Report

What prompted your organization to join the REBA community?

Toyota Motor North America joined the REBA community to gain insights in market trends and learn best practices in renewable energy procurement. Through our membership, we hope to get closer to achieving the global Toyota Environmental Challenge 2050 to have a net positive impact on society and the planet by 2050. The challenge consists of six goals that address climate change, water scarcity, resource depletion and species loss. Specifically, Challenge 3 calls for us to achieve zero carbon emissions at all of our manufacturing plants. We are committed to reducing emissions from the energy used to manufacture our vehicles by executing power purchase agreements. In this way, we supply emissions free renewable energy to the grid and pave the way to cleaner mobility.

What is your biggest challenge when it comes to renewable energy procurement?

The biggest challenge for us has been regulation that impedes renewable energy. We have had the opportunity to engage in advocacy efforts encouraging renewables and have been successful. As a company, we believe that is our responsibility to support the transition to a clean economy in the auto manufacturing sector of which a majority is located in carbon intensive grid areas.

What does the future of renewables look like for your organization?

In the coming years, we will be executing renewable energy deals that deliver long term value to Toyota and the communities where we operate. In selecting deals, we prioritize projects in states that have large concentrations of Toyota employees, are located in areas with high poverty rates and/or high coal mine job loss, use diverse suppliers, generate local jobs and provide funding the benefits the community. We are considering how to maximize positive impact in our procurement process by incorporating additional criteria such as avoided emissions, land use, wildlife, solar materials management and air quality impacts identified in the whitepaper “More than a Megawatt” created by Salesforce, REBA and other experts. Toyota believes that having a holistic evaluation process is a critical step for the renewable energy community to ensure that the clean energy transition truly has a positive impact on the world.

What is the most interesting renewables project you worked on during your time with the organization? 

The most interesting renewables project we have implemented is our tri-generation direct fuel cell power plant at our logistics facility in the Port of Long Beach, California that will use biogas from dairy farms to produce 100% renewable hydrogen. The power plant will supply hydrogen to zero emissions fuel cell trucks and Mirai vehicles, generate renewable electricity to power Toyota’s onsite logisitics operations and generate water to supplement municipal water for the onsite carwash. The site will be the first Toyota location to be 100% renewable from onsite generation. It will be a negative emissions project in that it captures methane from dairy farms and uses it to make power and fuel. The project has several positive impacts including reducing greenhouse gas emissions, supporting the transition to zero emissions mobility in California and addressing environmental justice issues. Disadvantaged communities in Long Beach experience some of the worst air quality in the US.

Envision a future where every organization has a path to renewable energy – what is the next step towards a zero-carbon energy future?

The next steps towards a zero-carbon energy future is procuring renewable natural gas and other forms of renewable thermal energy. We are pursuing opportunities to execute pilot projects in our operations. We also need a tremendous amount of technology development to occur that considers the carbon footprint in the entire value chain of our products. Only by implementing breakthrough technologies will we be able to decarbonize our operations and entire value chain.

Get Involved

REBA’s Innovations team supports members like Toyota to address market and regulatory barriers to procurement. Learn more.

A Statement from REBA’s CEO, Miranda Ballentine

The Renewable Energy Buyers Alliance (REBA) looks forward to working with the Biden Administration on supporting progress toward a zero-carbon energy future. The administration’s call for carbon-free power production by 2035 and net-zero emissions for new buildings by 2030 comes at a critical time when climate action isn’t just necessary, it’s vital.

Renewable energy is a leading solution in building back better and combatting the economic, societal and climate crises our country faces today. REBA’s members, who make up the world’s largest energy buyers, remain steadfast in their commitment to renewable energy advancement and advocating for complimentary policies that expand opportunities to decarbonize the power grid.

The REBA membership represents a market cap of $3.8 trillion of energy buyers demanding access to renewable energy to power their operations and facilities. Market demand supported a record rise in clean energy investments in 2019 up 28% to $55.5 billion highlighting the opportunity to leverage renewable energy as a path to well-paying jobs, economic growth, and to recovery for hard hit communities.

REBA is resolute in creating a thriving, equitable, and globally competitive clean energy economy that combats the climate crisis and pursues environmental justice.


Miranda Ballentine
Renewable Energy Buyers Alliance (REBA)

REBA Member Highlight: Salesforce

Salesforce’s first international renewable energy agreement contemplates more than the megawatts.

As a cloud pioneer and sustainability leader, Salesforce is responsible for the transition to clean and renewable sources of electricity this decade. We want a future in which clean and renewable energy is powering the world around the clock.

This will take a suite of actions, including trillions of dollars in investment, policy and regulatory changes, technology innovation, and much more. One step on that journey is our commitment to reach 100% renewable energy by 2022. For us, that means purchasing renewable energy equivalent to the amount of electricity we’ve used to power our global operations on an annual basis.

Purchasing renewable energy is about much more than just adding new megawatts of renewable energy to the grid. It’s about improving the state of the world. And, we quickly learned that not all renewable energy is created equal. Two projects with identical transactional details can have enormously different impacts on the world.

To help identify projects that have the greatest positive impacts, and least negative ones, we created a renewable energy procurement matrix — a tool for scoring projects across different economic, environmental, and social criteria.  As we began to evaluate international markets, we leveraged a similar approach scoring geographies based on key impact and logistical criteria. Australia was identified as one of several key geographies that had the potential to maximize the positive benefits of a renewable energy procurement.

The result of this regional and project level analysis is Salesforce’s first international renewable energy agreement, with X-ELIO’s Blue Grass solar farm, located in Queensland, Australia.  The Blue Grass solar farm is an excellent example of how renewable energy projects can improve the state of the world. While there are inevitably tradeoffs, this project excelled in a number of categories including:

  • High avoided emissions: Blue Grass has the highest avoided emissions rate of any project in Salesforce’s portfolio, over two times that of a comparable project in California.
  • Land-use: Blue Grass is sited on land with low ecological value, avoiding sensitive vegetation and wildlife habitats.
  • Community Engagement: In addition to creating 400 construction jobs, X-ELIO is dedicating a percentage of the annual gross income of the project to a Community Support and Benefit Sharing Program, which will support local community projects in areas such as education and community renewable projects.

As our first international procurement, we had several critical learnings through the process. With any international market, there were numerous nuances that differentiate the Australia market from the U.S. market. One particular challenge was that the Australian government was in the process of exploring the Coordination of Generation and Transmission Investment (COGATI) reforms – material regulatory changes to energy pricing. Specific details around what would be included in the COGATI reforms were unclear. Salesforce contemplated numerous strategies to navigate a Power Purchase Agreement amid the uncertainties of the COGATI reforms.

It will take all of us to reach a future where clean and renewable energy is powering the world around the clock. By sharing our approach and learnings, our hope is that others can use and improve upon them.

Get Involved

Will you join REBA to move the market Beyond the Megawatt? Go here to share your thoughts. 

Watt’s The Real Impact?

There is no shortage of articles announcing the purchase of renewable energy by commercial and industrial corporations featuring standard specifics, like the capacity contracted in megawatts, parties involved, and the renewable technology deployed. But what impacts do renewables projects have beyond the megawatts?

Large energy buyers have the collective power to drive change by emphasizing the non-financial impacts of renewable energy projects by prioritizing overall clean energy goals and associated levers to pull. How? By collaborating to prioritize projects that will avoid the most emissions to mitigate climate change; addressing interconnected systemic issues to improve social justice challenges; Integrating waste reduction goals to ensure adequate end of life recycling; and perhaps most vital of all to all projects, engaging local communities proactively to optimize broad social and economic impacts.

There are enough benefits beyond the megawatt to make even the most advanced energy buyers and stakeholders feel overwhelmed. 

Stop for a second. Step back. Take a breath. 

This is a situation where an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, in multiple ways. 

If you are a large energy buyer early on in the process and pitching renewable energy projects to internal stakeholders, you have the ability to share added impacts that align with other business goals. For example, if the agricultural community is core to your business, renewables can provide financial stability to farmers and the surrounding community. Or if you are in health care, renewables replacing fossil fuel plants can reduce air and water pollution in the community you serve.

If further on in the process, prioritization of environmental impacts can help you avoid unforeseen issues that could hinder project development, create bad press, and delay progress towards your goals. A prime example is knowing ahead of time through the RFP that a project is planned in or near critical habitat, which could help you rule out a project that may otherwise appear financially attractive. 

There is a lot of great research and experienced actors in this space and we are seeking to streamline and simplify to allow these resources to reach a wider audience. REBA is incredibly fortunate to have the support of Salesforce, which has laid a very solid foundation for this work through the release of their recent white paper.

There has been a marked increase in large energy buyers interested in driving greater impact and progress towards a zero-carbon energy system. Beyond the Megawatt, a REBA Institute program, will encompass the social and environmental impacts of renewable energy projects. 

In the next year its work will focus on climate and greenhouse gas reduction and social impact. To ensure we are reflecting and amplifying the most up to date and agreed upon thinking, we are looking to engage stakeholders that have experience or are interested in building these resources collectively.

Get Involved

Will you join us to move the market Beyond the Megawatt? Go here to share your thoughts. Contact the REBA Institute to learn more about the program.

Decarbonize the Internet

Every action we take on the internet—uploading a photo, streaming a video, or even just clicking a link, requires data storage and processing from a physical data center. At least 1% of the world’s electricity is data center’s daily operations to power, cool, and backup server equipment. This demand will continue to rise.[1] As organizations set Scope 3 emissions targets, a significant portion the supply chain emissions may be colocation data center facilities (colos) and public cloud service providers. There is a massive opportunity for data centers, cloud service providers, and their customers to reduce the internet’s carbon footprint through increased efficiency and renewable energy procurement commitments. 

Enter REBA’s Future of Internet Power (FoIP) initiative, a key coalition of companies identifying barriers and developing solutions for energy management and renewable energy procurement by colocation data center facilities (colos) and public cloud service providers. FoIP’s membership is comprised of key REBA members representing the largest internet and data center companies in the world who recognize the need for efficiency and renewable energy procurement and demand action by their colo and cloud providers. 

Accelerate sustainability in data centers and the public cloud

FoIP aims to power the internet with 100% renewable energy by building a community of stakeholders who focus on collaborative innovation and education to solve the toughest challenges in the industry. 

The FoIP initiative is guided by a set of principles to help data center customers engage their providers to procure renewable energy. A number of resources exist to support FoIP participants as they address key barriers to renewable energy procurement in data centers, such as scope accounting and the pass-through of renewable energy benefits from provider to customer. Future work through the FoIP initiative will focus on building out new tools to address outstanding market challenges, and addressing emissions associated with public cloud services. 

Recently, REBA launched a program within the FoIP initiative, the LESsor Sustainable Energy Network (LESSEN), a training program for data center providers and commercial real estate landlords that will equip these key stakeholders with knowledge, resources, and a community to help them advance their sustainable energy efforts. 

Why participate in FoIP?

As companies use more data, their carbon footprints will grow. FoIP brings together colo and cloud customers, service providers, and industry stakeholders to address challenges to energy consumption and access to renewable energy through innovative solutions across the data sector. Joining FoIP is a cost- and effort-effective way to drive industry impact, meet supply chain sustainability goals, and engage with a community of companies that share challenges and objectives. REBA members engaged in FoIP have the opportunity to drive the direction and strategy of this work, determining which market barriers are addressed and guiding the development of resources that are targeted at these challenges.

Get Involved

REBA membership gives your company the opportunity to participate in FoIP and demonstrate demand for maximizing efficiency and renewable energy solutions within your facilities and operations. To learn more about how to get involved, please contact

[1] Energy Innovation (March 2020). How Much Energy Do Data Centers Really Use?.

Accelerate Meaningful Supply Chain Climate Action

Supply Chain Partner Engagement Roadmap provides guidance for companies seeking to reduce their scope 3 emissions.

Large energy buyers are realizing the full environmental impact of a company’s products and services, including scope 3 emissions across supply chains, which are greater than their own operational emissions. CDP reports that supply chain emissions are 5.5 times greater than operational emissions on average. In 2019, 125 companies asked their supply chain partners to report their emissions via the CDP reporting platform. 

Reducing scope 3 emissions through supply chain engagement can be a daunting task. However, REBA members and other large energy buyers have been successful in supporting their supply chain partners through the process, from raising awareness of energy impacts to taking meaningful action. 

Capturing the lessons from market leaders

The Supply Chain Partner Engagement Roadmap, developed in consultation with leading energy buyers, is available exclusively for REBA members to accelerate action by helping companies navigate the engagement process from internal planning to execution by the supply chain partner (see Figure 1). Key insights and lessons learned are shared at each step of the process and the roadmap guides companies through pain points and key challenges, including:

  • Supplier selection: Supply chains often include thousands of global supply chain partners. The roadmap provides guidance to determine which supply chain partners to start with.
  • Information requests: Once you have selected your core group of supply chain partners, what data are you seeking and how will it be collected? The roadmap presents common data requested and an overview of different reporting approaches to consider for your goals. 
  • Supporting supplier action: Engagement does not stop once a supply chain partner has made a commitment to sustainable energy. The roadmap showcases ways for customer companies to support suppliers through to project execution, even in difficult markets. 

Figure 1: Supply chain partner engagement roadmap and approaches

Overall, leading companies offer the following advice:

  • Be strategic in your supplier selection
  • Disclose your own emissions to give credibility to your requests of your suppliers
  • Don’t reinvent the wheel! Take advantage of the reporting tools, resources, and training developed by REBA and other NGOs. For example, REBA’s Supply Chain members can take advantage of the Supplier Offer, which enables members to share the benefits of REBA resources and community with their supply chain partners. Learn more about the benefits of the Supplier Offer

REBA members can access the Supply Chain Partner Engagement Roadmap on the Member Portal. If you are interested in learning more about supply chain engagement, email

If you are interested in becoming a REBA member to access the Supply Chain Partner Engagement Roadmap and additional resources on the Member Portal, please contact the REBA Membership Team at