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 supplychain@rebuyers.org.


[1] Energy Innovation (March 2020). How Much Energy Do Data Centers Really Use?. https://energyinnovation.org/2020/03/17/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 supplychain@rebuyers.org.

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 membership@rebuyers.org.

ARPA-E’s SCALEUP Program Accelerates Clean Technology Development

Institutions and labs that lead research and development (R&D) of low-greenhouse gas (GHG) technologies will play a critical role in reducing global emissions. However, market and financial barriers impede the ability to commercialize these new technologies. The International Energy Agency (IEA) reported in July 2020 that while the technology exists to create a resilient and zero-carbon economy by 2050, only 25% of those technologies are currently mature. While a prototype or demonstration project exists, additional R&D will be required before cost effective deployment at scale.

Historically, technological development takes collaboration. The development of solar PV was an international, multi-stakeholder effort, involving companies, the national laboratory system, NASA, utilities, and universities.

Large energy buyers can accelerate deployment of both existing and next generation clean energy technologies through a new program called Seeding Critical Advances for Leading Energy technologies with Untapped Potential (SCALEUP) from the Advanced Research Projects Agency – Energy (ARPA-E).

Driving clean tech innovation

ARPA-E’s mission is to advance high-potential, high-impact energy technologies that are too early for private-sector investment. The SCALEUP program identifies key disruptive technologies in the prototype phase that have the potential to outperform existing technologies. Then, as the name suggests, the technologies are scaled through demonstration projects to accelerate development. This year there are 32 semifinalists in the following categories:

  • Transportation 
  • Buildings and Agriculture 
  • Grid and Renewables 
  • Industrial

If you are interested in engaging in REBA’s clean energy technology work, contact the Innovations team: innovation@rebuyers.org.

If you are interested in becoming a REBA member to access the ARPA-E SCALEUP Buyers Call and additional resources, please contact REBA’s Membership Team: membership@rebuyers.org.


Mid-Year Update Highlights Recent U.S. Green Tariff Programs

New information supplements existing resources outlining 36 approved or pending programs in 19 states

As demand for renewable energy continues to expand, REBA remains committed to developing resources for large energy buyers to take advantage of new and existing methods to procure renewable energy. One option is green tariffs, which are programs offered by electric utilities that allow eligible customers in traditional, regulated markets to buy energy from a renewable energy project. Since the first green tariff was proposed in 2013, 19 programs have brought more than 3.7 gigawatts (GW) of renewable energy to the electric grid.

To help its members identify green tariff opportunities across the U.S., REBA has released a Mid-Year Green Tariff Update. The update highlights nine recently approved green tariff programs and supplements the U.S. Electricity Markets: Utility Green Tariff Update, which was released in 2019 and describes 31 green tariff programs that had been approved or proposed across 18 states.

Compiled in collaboration with colleagues at the World Resources Institute, the July 2020 update summarizes changes and approvals to green tariff programs in Arizona, Georgia, Kentucky, Nevada, Virginia, and Wyoming. Seven of the programs are offered by utilities that already have green tariff offerings in place while the remaining two are offered by utilities new to green tariffs. This brings the total number of approved or pending programs to 36 in 19 states.

Looking forward, trends in green tariff offerings are encouraging due to changes in program size and eligibility. While most offerings have ranged from 50-400 megawatts in the past, two programs approved in the last six months have met or exceeded 1 gigawatt. There is also a shift from using green tariffs to target new customers and generate load growth to focus on meeting the needs of existing customers. Additional information about these trends will be available in the next full green tariff report, which is scheduled to be released in October 2020 .

Members can access the full Green Tariff Update on the Member Portal. If you are interested in learning more about green tariffs, email innovation@rebuyers.org.

If you are interested in becoming a REBA member to access the Green Tariff Update and additional resources on the Member Portal, please contact the REBA Membership Team at membership@rebuyers.org.


Driving Renewable Energy in International Markets

Forging connections among sustainability practitioners working to procure renewable energy has typically required innovative in-person conferences and networking events that enable bonds to be built around mutual interest or areas of expertise. However, these connections are often limited by geographic proximity and practitioners often struggle to connect with peer energy buyers beyond their national borders. In response to this market need, REBA in partnership with the We Mean Business coalition, is proud to announce the creation of the International Connection Platform, an online tool to enable connections among large energy buyers and NGOs seeking to accelerate sustainable energy in international markets.

There is a growing cadre of large energy buyers across the commercial and industrial sector, including corporations, seeking to procure renewable energy to meet their own load, support their global supply chain partners, and to expand into international energy markets. The COVID-19 pandemic has created additional barriers to an already challenging space by impacting in-person relationship building and knowledge share. The International Connection Platform allows for large energy buyers to connect with peers whose interest and experience in specific energy markets match their own and NGOs with market specific expertise and resources to drive forward sustainable energy initiatives.  

REBA recognizes that long-term impact in international markets will require concerted efforts, including deepening engagement with organizations and energy buyers with deep expertise and experience. The next phase of the International Connection Platform will enable access to tools and resources that will provide first-stage market screening information, international renewable energy procurement updates, and advocacy materials to drive local policy action.

The International Connection Platform is free to use for any large energy buyer seeking to learn more about international energy markets and procure renewable energy to meet their goals, as well as for NGO partners with local programs and expertise. Content available through the Platform will be continuously updated by the REBA team to support the development of international communities of interest.

Learn more about the International Connection Platform and take a look at the Step-by-Step Guidance if you are an energy buyer or NGO ready to create a profile..

Renewable Energy Adoption in Leased Buildings: Part 3

This blog series is authored by Vivienne Zhang and Illina Frankiv who manage the energy program at WeWork, a global co-working company and REBA member. The insights shared by Vivienne and Illina are based on their experiences supporting the sustainability goals of WeWork members. This three-part series will be split into blogs on Accountability, Transparency, and Market Solutions.


Market Solutions – How to buy?

The last question is regarding how to buy. The predicament is best illuminated in an example. An owner of a 30-story building leases one floor to a co-working company, which has 100 members in this space. If a member wants the space to use renewable energy, three scenarios can happen: 

1) The building owner already buys renewable energy and retains the environmental attribute certificates (EACs).[1] The building owner can pass EACs to the coworking company, which can then pass onto the member. This is possible today. However, the process can be a logistical nightmare. Worse, it can inadvertently lead to false claims or double counting given the long chain of custody each EAC undergoes and only the party that retains the certificates can claim using renewable energy.

2) When the building owner doesn’t buy renewable energy, how can a member, twice removed from the landlord, have their requests be heard? Demanding EACs from the building owner is not likely to succeed since an ordinary member may not be expected to know this jargon or be connected to the building owner – Often, as we have seen, a member emails a chain of possible landlord contacts who don’t have the answers.

3) The coworking company might want to act on its member’s request by trying to purchase renewable energy itself. However, as the coworking company is both a landlord and a tenant, it faces the predicaments in both scenario 1 and 2: It may not control the utility account of the leased space and therefore lacks quality data and/or the purchase abilities. At the same time, even if the coworking company does purchase EACs, it doesn’t have an efficient process to pass down the benefit of the purchase to their members. The coworking company is then left paralyzed by inaction between the two stakeholders.

The scenarios seem complicated, but they all highlight one simple problem: Any of the three actors in leased commercial buildings might want to act, but without a solution that addresses the overlapping nature of the emissions of the three stakeholders, as highlighted below in the purple area, confusion abounds, which inevitably results in inaction.

Some landlords and tenants have recognized the challenge and have tried to address this preemptively by offering solutions such as green leases, which standardizes lease clauses on energy management as discussed above.[2]Likewise, some colocation data center vendors, which lease space to clients requiring data storage, have also worked on providing “green energy benefits’ to customers by certifying that the building uses clean energy.[3]

If the existing solutions were to serve as any guide, ways for addressing the overlapping scopes of emissions for landlord, co-working company, and tenant can take any form from a green lease, a lease addendum, a differentiating service, an industry standard, a label, or a product. But until the day that getting renewable energy for a tenant is as simple as going to a local market to buy (or demand) organic food, we don’t think it’s good enough. That is the aspiration we have for the industry of commercial offices.

Conclusion

To solve the puzzle of landlord-tenant split incentive challenge on renewable energy use, we are advocating for accountability (who should buy renewable energy) and transparency (how much to buy), and we are hopeful that the marketplace will follow, do its magic, and come up with great solutions for customers looking to go green (how to buy). Of course, market solutions can come first, and progress is usually not a straight line, but more awareness of how the first two questions are slowing down the market can hopefully accelerate the development of solutions, and these days, we need all the speed we can get!


[1]EACs from renewable energy in the US are tracked through renewable energy certificates (RECs).

[2] https://www.imt.org/resources/green-lease-leaders-using-the-lease-to-create-more-sustainable-coworking-spaces/

[3] https://www.bsr.org/en/collaboration/groups/future-of-internet-power


Stayed tuned for the next blog in this series on Market Solutions.

Interested in learning how to navigate sustainability as a tenant or landlord? Check out REBA’s LESsor Sustainable Energy Network (LESSEN) for additional resources.


Authors:

Illina Frankiv
Global Energy Program Manager
WeWork

Vivienne Zhang
Global Energy Program Manager
WeWork

Mark Porter
Supply Chain and International Collaboration, Director
Renewable Energy Buyers Alliance

REBA Supports New Emissions Database to Enhance Sustainability Reporting

Energy buyers can now review detailed emissions data for delivered electricity in select regions

A new initiative led by the Edison Electric Institute (EEI), the association representing all U.S. investor-owned electric companies, is making it easier for commercial and industrial (C&I) energy buyers to see how much carbon is emitted to power their business operations.  

EEI’s database, titled “Electric Company Carbon Emissions and Electricity Mix Reporting Database for Corporate Customers,” contains voluntarily submitted datapoints from 19 EEI member electric utilities, which encompass over 50 operating companies across the U.S. and cover 43% of all U.S. electricity sales. The utility-specific information includes generation resource mixes, average emissions rates for delivered electricity, and residual mix emissions rates. The EEI database also denotes whether each utility’s emissions data complies with accepted accounting principles and if the amounts are verified by recognized third-party standards.   

The recently released data allows energy buyers in select regions to see the estimated carbon emissions per megawatt-hour (MWh) of electricity they consumed in 2018 and 2019. Having access to this information is essential for C&I customers to enhance the accuracy of their sustainability reporting, track progress towards meeting their greenhouse gas emissions reduction goals, inform future business planning, and support decarbonization of the electric grid. 

The carbon emissions reporting template that underlies this initiative was developed in collaboration between EEI, the World Resources Institute, EEI member utilities, and corporate energy buyers to increase the consistency and availability of emissions data. Through this voluntary effort, C&I customers in 33 states and the District of Columbia now have access to information that will boost their sustainability planning and reporting.  

Moving forward, EEI will update the emissions dataset by June 1 of each year using voluntary submissions from utilities. REBA commends EEI and the roughly half of its member utilities that provided data for the inaugural version and encourages all of EEI’s membership to participate in this initiative in the future. Ultimately, buyers need this data from every load-serving entity in the U.S. and so this effort will continue to need to be expanded and harmonized. The buyer community can support the continued expansion of EEI’s database by contacting utilities to discuss its value and urge them to participate in future versions. 

If you are interested in becoming a REBA member or learning more about REBA’s work to harmonize data reporting by all load-serving entities in the U.S., or our broader work with electric utilities, email us at Innovation@rebuyers.org.  

See EEI’s press release here

On-Site Energy Procurement Roadmap

Exclusive resource for REBA members

REBA is excited to announce the release of its on-site procurement roadmap, the first REBA resource to focus on on-site electricity generation. The roadmap provides an overview of the average on-site energy procurement process for a corporate buyer. The roadmap is technology agnostic, supports buyers considering a range of different on-site options, and addresses common questions that arise during the procurement process.  

The roadmap goes through the on-site energy procurement process from start to finish, from initial emissions reduction goal setting, to building internal support, to evaluating different technologies and ownership models, to drafting an RFP, to ongoing system maintenance after installation. While we recognize that every buyer’s journey will be different, the roadmap serves as a high-level guide for what buyers should consider at different points in the process as they pursue on-site solutions. The roadmap also aggregates numerous publicly available resources into one central location to assist buyers with everything from building an effective internal team, to making appropriate statements around renewable energy use, to technical and regulatory considerations. Finally, the roadmap also includes many insights and lessons learned from buyers who are experienced with on-site procurement. 

On-site procurement can provide many benefits: it can serve as a visible sign of sustainability commitments, offer renewable energy solutions in markets with limited off-site procurement options, reduce electricity price volatility, enhance resiliency and reduce grid dependency, to name a few. The launch of the on-site procurement roadmap represents an exciting step in REBA’s journey to ensure that every organization has a viable, expedient, and cost-effective pathway to renewable energy. 

A Statement from REBA’s CEO, Miranda Ballentine


Racism. At a bare minimum, we must notice, care, and condemn the systemic violence against people of color.  REBA categorically denounces racially-charged violence and discrimination of any kind, and REBA supports the peaceful demonstrations calling for radical changes in our society. 

As a leader and as a mother, like so many of you, I have once again been heartbroken and outraged by yet another spate of violence against black people: the recent deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery, to name a few. And Christian Cooper could have easily faced the same fate given the false, racially-charged accusations against him when he asked a white woman to follow dog-leashing laws in Central Park. This still exists in 2020, and it has to stop.

The harder thing to do is to look deep within ourselves, all of us, and ask ourselves: “What can I do better? What can my organization do better?”  

According to Brookings Institute, the entire clean energy sector continues to trail other industries in diversity across occupations, with less than 10% of the workforce from black communities. REBA knows that diversity not only makes our organization and our industry stronger, but is foundational to our ability to achieve our vision of a resilient zero-carbon energy system. 

Although I am proud that REBA, at just over one year old, has articulated in policy our Commitment to Diversity and Inclusion, I also know that commitments are not enough, and policies are only the baseline. REBA actively seeks out diverse candidates for all our jobs, at every level—and we strive to ever-increase our understanding and unveil our unconscious biases. It is not enough.

There is so much more work to be done, and REBA must lead by example and in practice.  We are small but mighty.

As part of the next phase of our young organization’s development, REBA commits to develop and implement strategies and practices to bring to life REBA’s Commitment to Diversity & Inclusion,  doing our part to proactively break down the systemic and personal barriers—both known and unknown—that block diversity and inclusion at REBA and in our industry.  We will continue to build REBA’s core tenet of a spirit of partnership and our core value of respect for people and the planet.

This will take time, effort, research, and focus, and we will learn from those before us and people in diverse communities.  I know that it is not only the right thing to do in partnership with and respect for our fellow humans who have been held back by systemic barriers, but it’s also the right thing to do for REBA.  

As members of REBA, if you have insight, passion, or interest in helping REBA take this next step, please reach out to me.

In the words of a dear friend of mine, “no single action that will eliminate racism, but meaningful progress will require empathy and collective efforts to ensure things change.”


Authors:

Miranda Ballentine
CEO
Renewable Energy Buyers Alliance (REBA)

Renewable Energy Adoption in Leased Buildings: Part 2

This blog series is authored by Vivienne Zhang and Illina Frankiv who manage the energy program at WeWork, a global co-working company and REBA member. The insights shared by Vivienne and Illina are based on their experiences supporting the sustainability goals of WeWork members. This three-part series will be split into blogs on Accountability, Transparency, and Market Solutions.


Transparency – How much to buy?

After answering who should buy renewable energy, the question that follows is how much to buy? Many good corporate citizens do not care whether their emissions are Scope 2 or Scope 3; they just want to reduce their carbon footprint. In other words, it doesn’t matter whether their energy footprint is the landlord’s or tenant’s, as long as it is clean. This is a laudable stance and could lead to faster action. For example, Stripe, a technology company, in trying to reach its carbon-neutral goal, estimated the carbon footprint of its office based on the typical energy intensity of similar commercial spaces and bought carbon offsets separately.[1] However, this approach, apart from the inevitable inaccuracies associated with estimation, also doesn’t address our goal of decarbonizing energy supply. [2]

The ideal way is to obtain actual energy use data and procure an equivalent amount of renewable sources so as to replace traditional energy supply with the clean option. Effective purchases can increase renewable energy penetration in the energy system. Data visibility is, however, easier said than done, because commercial lease agreements typically do not contain standardized clauses for the provision of energy data. The lease negotiation process is arduous in itself, centering on an array of issues from cost to term length. Considerations about utility management often fall by the wayside. As a consequence, the landlord usually decides whether they are going to provide the tenant with energy consumption data, how frequently, and in what format. The scattered reporting approaches (if any) make it difficult to develop scalable data management systems. 

Additionally, because buildings, meters, and appliances range widely in age and technical capabilities, energy data collection can be anything from manually reading an analog meter and writing it down on a piece of paper to automatically pulling numbers from a smart meter into a database. For institutional landlords and tenants with hundreds of locations that require monthly updates (up to the granularity of 15-min interval), this process can get very labor- and cost-intensive. For coworking spaces with thousands of tenants, the difficulty increases by an order of magnitude. 

The result is that most tenants and subtenants don’t know their energy use. Those with sustainability aspirations can stop short from buying clean energy because the first step, knowing how much to buy, simply creates too much friction. Having an established leasing clause to mandate data collection and transparency, either through voluntary cooperation to develop industry standards or by mandate, such as Law 88 in NY,[3] can solve this problem. After all, the technology exists; we have done it for residential customers. Ultimately, popularizing energy data transparency depends on how committed landlords and tenants are in resolving this issue systematically, which, so far, has not ranked top of the list when it comes to lease negotiations.


[1] https://increment.com/energy-environment/stripes-carbon-neutral-journey/

[2] https://www.epa.gov/sites/production/files/2018-03/documents/gpp_guide_recs_offsets.pdf 

[3] https://www1.nyc.gov/assets/buildings/local_laws/ll88of2009.pdf


Stayed tuned for the next blog in this series on Market Solutions.

Interested in learning how to navigate sustainability as a tenant or landlord? Check out REBA’s LESsor Sustainable Energy Network (LESSEN) for additional resources.


Authors:

Illina Frankiv
Global Energy Program Manager
WeWork

Vivienne Zhang
Global Energy Program Manager
WeWork

Mark Porter
Supply Chain and International Collaboration, Director
Renewable Energy Buyers Alliance