Raising the Industry Standard: Low Carbon Solar

Large energy buyers and project developers are starting to pay attention to the carbon in their solar supply chain.  What’s under consideration and will it raise the industry standard for renewable energy procurement? The REBA Institute’s Decarbonizing Industrial Supply Chain Energy (DISC-e) program brings together large energy buyers and their partners to make sure the energy that goes into renewable energy projects is as clean as the energy that comes out.  

Why is low-carbon solar, or considering carbon emissions associated with the full life cycle of solar panels, an issue the energy industry needs to address?  Solar manufacturing represents a small percentage of global emissions, but demand for solar is forecasted to grow at a compound annual rate 3 to 5 times higher than the average industrial commodity (e.g. steel, which accounts for 8% of global emission alone).  If business as usual continues, this growth risks putting the carbon impact of solar panels on par with aluminum manufacturing, the fourth largest industrial commodity from an emissions standpoint, by 2040. 

Commercial and industrial sector energy buyers currently participating in the DISC-e Solar Working Group have indicated the intent to prioritize request for proposal (RFP) bids with low-carbon solar panels as early as next year. Incorporating specific and verifiable environmental, social, governance (ESG) metrics into renewable energy procurement RFP processes is a clear demand-signal, and creates an opportunity to raise the energy industry standard to low-carbon solar.

By tackling the solar supply chain now, energy buyers can set a low-carbon standard that will support the sustainable growth of the industry while mitigating the environmental impact and potential reputational risk that may otherwise impede that growth.  Want to add your voice to the conversation?  Join DISC-e’s next Solar Working Group meeting on Wednesday, July 7 at 12 PM ET — no prior participation required. This meeting is the fourth in a series of discussions and will solicit feedback on DISC-e’s proposed strategy for solar supply chain decarbonization.  Email jen@reba-institute.org to register and learn more about the program.

REBA Member Highlight: Solar Stewards

This blog series highlights the inaugural group of companies that joined the REBA community through its Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion membership.

Solar Stewards was born on the back of a church envelope during a Sunday mass.   Pope Francis had just published Laudato si’, a global call to recognize the sanctity of our Earth.   Growing increasingly tired of disparities witnessed within renewable deployment, I felt inspired to answer this call with innovation and resolution.   As a life-long entrepreneur, I knew the business community had to play a key role.

Within this impactful letter, we as a global community are called not only to improve our relationship with the environment, but to explore the root cause of environmental injustices within our own humanity. These injustices are enabled by cognitive dissonance in the global corporate industry, whereby we have conveniently and carelessly dissociated the environment from the people, and put short-term gain above sustainable practices and profits.  It is no longer enough to have a broad climate action goal which neglects the very populations most vulnerable to climate change.   It is missing the mark to create complex deal structures and still fail to include under-resourced communities and businesses.  It is a missed opportunity to overlook the value of including community engagement and branding within a carbon reduction strategy, and solely focus on metrics that do not engage a customer and consumer base.

Beyond a trend, there is now a movement to reframe renewable energy deployment to realize all of the value propositions Solar Stewards brings to renewable energy buyers.  Our Social RECs™ are a tool for companies to recognize the value of both social and environmental impact, together, within new and existing renewable energy markets.  When incorporating these social benefits, it’s important to follow three guidelines to ensure successful outcomes:

Focus your impact

Be intentional with the communities and initiatives important to your customers and your brand.   Where does your customer base live, work, and play?   What issues are important to your brand?  Climate Stewards can tailor Social REC™ portfolios to directly connect with the social causes and clientele that resonate with business objectives.

Be more than a buyer

Our Climate Stewards are renewable energy buyers leveraging the visibility, community engagement, and tangible impact of a Solar Stewards program. As such, longer commitments to realize and report impact are customary, as true social and environmental impact is long-term.   Solar Stewards delivers the opportunity for lasting benefits to community, to climate, and to your brand.

Choose Social RECs™ 

Social RECs™ accomplish a litany of goals from carbon reduction, to diversity equity and inclusion, to brand awareness and new market development.  As the market recognizes this shift in buyer consciousness, we shall inevitably see social claims with no direct connection to communities or accountability.  To avoid ‘socialwashing’ specify Social RECs™, which utilize decades of environmental, social, and racial justice frameworks.   As a woman and minority owned small business, Solar Stewards understands first-hand both business and social impact.

Whether you are a CEO or a Pope, the message is clear:  Climate action must focus on humanity.   

Get Involved

Learn more about REBA’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Membership here

Clean Energy Technology Requires Critical Investments to Drive Decarbonization

REBA calls for Federal research, development, and demonstration funding increase to accelerate clean energy technology development and deployment.

In May, REBA signed onto a letter to Congressional leaders requesting a multibillion-dollar increase for vital clean energy technology research, development, demonstration (RD&D), and commercial deployment activities at the Department of Energy (DOE).  This FY22 appropriations increase would provide the critical investment needed to support the development and deployment of clean energy technologies to drive decarbonization by 2050. Joined by over 100 organizations, the letter emphasized the importance of increasing funding to:

The Importance of Increasing RD&D Funding 

While the technologies needed to achieve the necessary deep cuts in global emissions by 2030 are readily available today, many of the technologies required for a full clean energy transition by 2050 are not yet commercially viable. Private-public investment is critical to addressing barriers and unlocking market opportunities for new promising clean energy technologies. Increasing federal investments in new clean energy technologies supports the American innovation ecosystem, which has historically been a competitive edge for domestic workers, innovators and businesses competing in the global energy markets. Recently the U.S. has fallen behind other nations that are investing heavily in energy R&D. It is critical that the Federal government accelerate investments to create the robust set of clean energy technologies required to reduce emissions, drive economic recovery, and achieve deep decarbonization.

Why Is Increasing RD&D Funding Important to Energy Buyers?

Large-energy buyers in the commercial and industrial sectors have an important role during the demonstration and commercialization stages by providing crucial product feedback and testing emerging technologies in market conditions. Increasing federal funding for clean energy RD&D will provide the support needed to accelerate those later stages of innovation and match private sector funds, which currently make up almost all funding for mature technologies. Large-energy buyers accelerate the market demand for affordable low-and zero-carbon technologies to meet their climate goals, but public investment is critical to propel energy innovation at the rate needed to compete and confront climate change. 

Get Involved

If you are interested in learning more about REBA’s Clean Tech workstream, email innovation@rebuyers.org.

If you are interested in becoming a REBA member to access additional clean tech content and additional resources on the REBA InterConnect, our member portal, our member portal, please contact the REBA Membership Team at membership@rebuyers.org


Citations

1International Energy Agency, Net Zero by 2050 A Roadmap for the Global Energy Sector 2021 p. 14
2Energizing America: A Roadmap to Launch a National Energy Innovation Mission Columbia Center of Global Energy Policy 2020p. 14 
3International Energy Agency, “Public Energy R&D as a Share of GDP for Selected Countries, 2012-2019,” July 2020 https://www.iea.org/data-and-statistics/charts/public-energy-r-and-d-as-a-share-of-GDP-in-selected-countries-2012-2019
4Energizing America: A Roadmap to Launch a National Energy Innovation Mission Columbia Center of Global Energy Policy 2020p. 23
5Energizing America: A Roadmap to Launch a National Energy Innovation Mission Columbia Center of Global Energy Policy 2020p. 23

Empowering Communities: People and Cultural Value

Large energy buyers procured record-breaking amounts of renewable energy in 2020 increasingly taking into consideration impacts beyond climate action, like intentionally building strong relationships with communities to create mutually beneficial advantages where a project is located. Local communities that directly experience the impact of climate challenges often have vital input that should be considered as companies pursue renewable energy.

The REBA Institute contributed to a first-of-its-kind virtual listening tour, the Working Wisdom series, in partnership with Groundswell to provide community leaders the platform to connect with large energy buyers . REBA members participated in the four-part series to lay the foundation for building authentic relationships to support equitable renewable energy projects that benefit all parties the project touches.

Each session provided a space for individuals involved in the renewable energy procurement process to hear from community leaders who highlighted the power of culture and traditional knowledge in the engagement process, and how important it is when creating and sustaining healthy relationships. Key knowledge passed included advice and learnings:

  • Local indigenous and communities of color face the greatest challenges to energy access and reliability resulting in disproportionately increased vulnerability to the climate crises.
  • Each community is distinct in nature and history, and their values are subsequently diverse. Alignment of community values and corporate values should be at the forefront of communications and project initiatives.
  • Renewable energy provides an opportunity for communities to physically and culturally protect the generations of today and tomorrow.
  • Equitable access to renewable energy resources emancipates communities from energy burdens creating a clear pathway towards energy sovereignty. Renewable energy provides an opportunity for communities to protect their land, resources, and culture for future generations while reducing/removing the energy burdens and creating a path to energy sovereignty.

When partnering with a community on a renewable energy project, large energy buyers are encouraged to engage the community early in the procurement process, identify a community champion to guide the process take time to listen to as many community members as possible, and above all else be patient.

To read more about insights from each of the sessions, visit the community solar partner organization Groundswell. To learn more about how to get involved with community engagement and co-benefit creation visit the REBA’s Institute’s Beyond the Megawatt.

The next Empowering Communities blog focuses on the value of recognizing a community’s place-based priorities and opportunities.

A Statement from REBA’s CEO, Miranda Ballentine in Support of Former FERC Commissioner Letter on Organized Markets

It’s a rare day in Washington when Republicans and Democrats agree. In a letter from nine former Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) Chairs and Commissioners who served under five Presidents from both parties, we now have unequivocal alignment that the expansion of organized regional wholesale power markets will benefit customers and accelerate clean energy deployment.

The Renewable Energy Buyers Alliance (REBA) fully agrees that FERC should “finish the job of setting up organized wholesale power markets and ensure that they flourish in all regions of the country. . . [because they are] compelling platforms for renewable energy development and are achieving considerable consumer benefit.”

Organized markets, known as Independent System Operators (ISOs) and Regional Transmission Organizations (RTOs), are more essential than ever as our nation moves toward decarbonizing the power sector. These organized markets provide benefits including:

  • Rapid decarbonization of the energy grid as evidenced by 80% of renewable generation deployed in organized market regions and emissions falling faster in these areas;
  • A least-cost, customer-centric transition to renewable resources and a level playing field for all technologies by providing non-discriminatory grid access; and
  • Increased grid resilience through improved grid planning, including transmission, and more inter-connected grids to balance power flows and resources across wider geographic areas.

A study by the REBA Institute and the Brattle group shows that organized wholesale markets reduce costs for customers regardless of whether these policies focus on advancing state clean energy policies, expanding utility programs for commercial and industrial renewable energy access, or introducing supply choice.

Likewise, REBA released a set of customer-centric wholesale market design principles that outline specific design priorities for structuring markets that accelerate renewable energy deployment. It is essential that these principles are considered to ensure markets decarbonize the power sector equitably and least-cost.

The time is now to ensure customers across the country are seeing the grid green. These wholesale electricity market platforms provide the necessary market-based foundation to ensure that energy customers can continue to play a significant role in advancing a carbon-free power sector and all customers benefit from a faster and lower-cost transition to clean energy.

REBA Member Highlight: Welltower


A Q&A showcasing one of REBA’s newest members, Welltower, and the company’s renewable energy journey as detailed by Kirby Brendsel, AVP Sustainability & ESG.

What prompted your organization to join the REBA community? 

One of our key motivations for joining REBA is the opportunity to network with renewable energy practitioners who are working on projects similar to ours. The ability to see what others are doing in this space and gain insights to better address our own challenges is a significant value driver. We also joined REBA to engage more deeply in the renewable energy community. We want to contribute our knowledge, experience, and lessons learned to this community so that other renewable energy buyers might also learn from them.  

What has been your biggest challenge in renewable energy procurement? 

Our biggest challenge is finding new ways to communicate the importance of renewable energy with a wide variety of stakeholders who are unfamiliar with renewables. Sharing the value of renewable energy and encouraging our stakeholders to champion renewables is paramount to our team’s success. Since joining REBA, we have found that stakeholder education is a hurdle shared by many, and we look forward to engaging with the community on this challenge. 

Looking forward, what does the future of renewables look like for Welltower? 

With successful renewable projects in our portfolio, we are now looking for new ways to incorporate renewable energy into our business strategy and priorities. In 2019, we set our first environmental goal: a 10% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions and water and energy use by 2025 from our 2018 baseline. We are now considering new environmental targets that are more explicitly focused on renewable energy use. We are also looking for more impactful ways to procure renewable energy. 

Looking back, what is the most interesting renewables project you have worked on during your time at Welltower? 

We did a ground-mount on-site solar project in Massachusetts that was particularly interesting. We own two adjacent lots – the property is on one lot, and we built the on-site system on the other lot. The amount of energy this ground-mount system is producing is much greater than if we had been constricted by mounting it on a roof. Building a ground-mount project also meant we did not have to deal with roof maintenance, which greatly reduced costs (and headaches). All in all, a really cool project! 

Envision a future where every organization has a viable, expedient, and cost-effective pathway to renewable energy. What is the next step to get there? 

We need to intensify the focus on sustainability and renewable energy at more organizations. Corporate commitments to sustainability and renewable energy are growing – I am seeing this play out in real estate, where companies that have never had a sustainability report or sustainability goals are now adopting these practices. While these developments are encouraging, we need more. Every company has its own culture and every leader has their own motivations, but to move towards a zero-carbon energy future, we need all corporates to commit to sustainability and renewable energy procurement. 


Get Involved

Learn more about how to join REBA’s community of leaders here.

REBA Member Highlight: Synopsys


The unimaginable events of 2020 have jolted us all into rethinking, reimagining, and resetting how we want to do things in the future. Priorities changed overnight for individuals, organizations, governments, and entire regions. Synopsys emerged with an even stronger focus on environmental, social, and governance matters. As a result, we developed a Corporate Social Responsibility strategy focused on a future that is sustainable, secure, and fair. We have a clear vision of the road to a more sustainable future, and it is lined with widespread adoption of ambitious emissions reduction targets and innovative agreements to enable business to procure renewable energy.   

Last year, Synopsys announced a pledge to reduce its Scope 1 and 2 greenhouse gas emissions by 25% by 2024, in line with the Paris Agreement’s goal to limit global temperature rise within 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. These goals are central to Synopsys’ Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) commitment to a future powered by the efficient use and responsible management of all resources. 

As part of our drive to reduce our direct emissions, Synopsys has joined one of the largest corporate aggregated clean energy procurement agreements to accelerate the development of renewable energy. Bundling our energy demand with three other companies, including fellow REBA member Akamai, is allowing us to serve as an anchor tenant for Enel Green Power’s Azure Sky Wind Project in Texas. The Azure Sky Wind Project is a 350 MW wind and 137 MW battery storage project currently under construction and expected to begin operations in the first half of 2022. The breakthrough aggregated virtual power purchase agreement demonstrates how accessible it now is to acquire credible bundled Renewable Energy Certificates for an enterprise of any size.   

Under the 12-year agreement, Synopsys has contracted 15 MW of wind generation capacity, an amount that can meet the annual electricity demands of roughly 5,000 average U.S. homes. This landmark agreement is instrumental to Synopsys’ ability to mitigate approximately 70% of our projected North American emissions, leading to new renewable energy on the grid and displacing fossil fuels. 

After a year of dramatic events that underscored humanity’s reliance on and the vulnerability of the Earth’s ecosystems, we’re at a critical juncture for taking climate action. We hope our recent actions become a part of mass mobilization on the part of business, where renewable energy options are fully leveraged to deliver on emissions reduction targets. As a new member to REBA, we are excited to partner with others to further accelerate clean energy transactions for a more sustainable future.    


Get Involved

You can hear more energy buyer experiences and lessons learned through member-exclusive monthly Buyers Call that highlight unique, innovative market activities. Learn more about how to join REBA’s community of leaders here.

REBA Member Highlight: Schneider Electric


The real estate industry has a long history of renewable energy procurement. Digital Realty, one of the  five largest publicly-listed U.S. REITs, has been a pioneer in renewable procurement. Equinix, Prologis and Iron Mountain are among other REITs leading the industry in renewable purchasing. Globally, there are 69 real estate companies taking action via the Science-Based Targets initiative and a number of leading real estate companies are committed to sourcing 100% renewable electricity via the RE100. Governments too are committing to better buildings, for example, through the Biden Administration’s promise to upgrade the energy efficiency of at least 4 million buildings and the EU’s renovation wave strategy to double the renovation rate of buildings that lead to higher energy and resource efficiency

However, there is still a huge untapped potential for progress in the real estate industry. According to the International Energy Agency, the buildings and building construction sectors are responsible for over one-third of global energy consumption and nearly 40% of CO2 emissions.

To close the gap on real estate emissions, Schneider Electric has joined forces with the Renewable Energy Buyers Alliance (REBA) to significantly increase renewable energy procurement in commercial real estate. Schneider Electric is proud to sign onto REBA’s Commercial Real Estate Principles which seek to support global climate action by:

  1. Building collaboration and partnership between tenant and landlords
  2. Ensuring transparency of energy use per tenant
  3. Prioritizing energy reduction and efficiency
  4. Providing access to renewable energy options
  5. Providing renewable energy options that drive the greatest impact
  6. Engaging in public disclosures and benchmarking

Schneider Electric plays on both sides of the sustainability equation, in both our own operations and buildings and as a sustainability enabler for our customers. On one side, we have committed to aggressive decarbonization targets. As of 2020, among other progress, we have achieved 80% renewable energy globally, and aim to reach 100% by 2030 in pursuit of our RE100 commitment.

On the other side, we partner with our customers in their own journeys toward sustainability. As a leading energy service company, we work with the public sector to accelerate energy reductions and efficiency programs in schools, municipalities and the federal government. And as an energy, renewables and climate change advisor, we work with companies across the commercial real estate industry to assess and implement data tracking, carbon reduction and renewable energy programs. In 2020, we saved a total of 120M metric tons of CO2 through our products and services, on behalf of our customers.

“We are excited to continue to lead the real estate industry forward on its journey to achieving a low-carbon sustainable future. Through the mission of the Future of Real Estate Power initiative and the 6 principles for commercial real estate, REBA and its members will accelerate the industry’s transformation to a zero-carbon future” – Jon Robinson, Director of Client Development, Schneider Electric Energy & Sustainability Services

Get Involved

Learn more about REBA’s Future of Real Estate Power program and how to engage with key commercial real estate leaders.


REBA Member Highlight: Standing Rock Sioux Tribe


From Energy Dependence to Self-reliance:  How Standing Rock’s Indigenous-led SAGE Development Authority Plans to Restore Balance with the Anpetu Wi Wind Farm  

In 2016, developments around the Dakota Access Pipeline (“DAPL”) thrust Stranding Rock and the Greater Sioux Nation into the national news. Against our express wishes and in contravention of our sovereignty as a Tribal Nation, an oil pipeline was being built through our ancestral land and along the Missouri River – endangering historical sacred sites and threatening drinking water for millions of people.  

It was our youth at Standing Rock who began the #NoDAPL movement, united in the Lakota/Dakota saying Mni Wiconi (pronounced “min-ee which-O-nee”), Water of Life

Thousands of Native and non-Native citizens joined us in solidarity as we camped, prayed, protected, and educated one another in ways to create a more just future for Unci Maka (Grandmother Earth) and all of Her inhabitants. Even as the Pipeline’s fate is still in litigation and it continues to operate illegally, we continue our work for more responsible energy sources in our communities. 

Racial justice is Climate justice. Environmental justice. Economic justice. These are all elements of the same thing – a healthy, hospitable, and sustainable future that includes us all. While we work for justice in the courts, our community is taking action toward a renewable energy future for Standing Rock. That future begins with SAGE Development Authority and its inaugural project: a 235MW wind farm named Anpetu Wi.  

Anpetu Wi, which means “the first rays of the new day” in our Lakota language, will fundamentally change Standing Rock’s energy posture from one of dependence to self-reliance. By developing sustainable energy resources on Indigenous land, we hope to inspire a movement of community-determined development in accordance with Natural Law in a model that can be replicated throughout the region and beyond. SAGE’s goal is for Anpetu Wi to be operable by 2024.  

SAGE is a women-led, Standing Rock Sioux Tribe-formed and federally chartered Section 17 Tribal Corporation and a member of the American Public Power Association (following industry tenets of the APPA as a utility provider.)  We successfully completed the Interconnection Application in April 2020 with Southwest Power Pool Regional Transmission Operator. Pre-feasibility tests predict strong economics based on our proposed turbine location.  

Our goal is to export renewable energy to commercial, industrial, and/or utility buyers, reinvesting the revenue generated to create an economic engine at Standing Rock by supporting institution development at Standing Rock such as schools, job training, housing infrastructure, financial institutions, and roads – as well as other renewable energy and community-directed projects (such as microgrids.)  

With a Tribal Council-appointed and women-led Board of Directors, we are proof-positive of our commitment to empowering Indigenous people as leaders in a community-determined and self-determined manner. SAGE has been established with generous support from foundations such as the Wallace Global Fund, Sierra Club Foundation, Seventh Generation Fund, JPB Foundation, Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors, NDN Collective, Cedar Tree Foundation, The Christensen Fund, and Tamalpais Trust.  

Get Involved

You can learn more about the work SAGE is leading and how to get involved through our website: www.anpetuwi.com.  


REBA Member Highlight: AB InBev and BayWa r.e.


World’s largest brewer paves the way for cross-border VPPAs in Europe

Earth Day is championed as a significant environmental movement that drives transformative change for people and the planet. So it’s fitting that we celebrate it by releasing a resource that showcases how two REBA members, Anheuser-Busch InBev (AB InBev) and BayWa r.e., collaborated on the largest Pan-European corporate solar deal in history.

The REBA-exclusive Pan-European Renewables Procurement Case Study, written in collaboration with both companies, details how AB InBev navigated a new and complex procurement mechanism to successfully develop a cross-border virtual power purchase agreement (VPPA). Once built, the Budweiser Solar Farm project will provide 100 percent renewable electricity for 14 AB InBev breweries across Western Europe.

AB InBev began the project procurement process in 2019 as solar became more cost-competitive, and followed a unique approach by aggregating load across five countries. The company’s strategy allowed for the development of two large-scale solar photovoltaic (PV) projects located in Spain with a combined power of 200 megawatts.

“We are honored to share our story in this case study and give back to the REBA community. I have learned from REBA and hope that by sharing our learnings with other members we can continue to push the market forward together.”  Moritz Bernhoerster, AB InBev

The Pan-European Renewables Procurement Case Study shares how AB InBev conceptualized, found, and negotiated a cross-border deal to meet its sustainable energy goals through the lens of the project timeline and approach. Non-REBA members can access a preview that includes key lessons and factors for success presented at each step of the process like:

  • Setting internal goals
  • Getting internal buy-in
  • Mitigating risk
  • Ensuring a credible use claim
  • Engaging a leading brand in marketing the project

By sharing insights, AB InBev provides an example of how conducting cross-border renewable energy transactions is achievable and how REBA members and other companies with disbursed load can pursue similar deals in Europe.

“With the right support and some thoughtful planning, other companies with disbursed load across Europe should consider a cross-border VPPA to meet their renewable energy goals.” Moritz Bernhoerster, AB InBev


Read the entire Anheuser-Busch InBev Budweiser Solar Farm Case Study on the REBA InterConnect, our member portal. Not a member? Email membership@rebuyers.org for more information.

Get Involved

Additional resources and events to help you understand the challenges and opportunities in international energy markets are available through the International Collaboration program.

Hear more about innovative projects during the REBA Member Summit on May 4 – 20. Registration is open to REBA members, and non-members can purchase ticketed-access to select content.