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.