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Energy Efficiency

Corporate America Is Putting Clean Energy First

American Businesses Push for Sustainability Legislation

For many years, the fossil fuel industry has been at the wheel, steering American energy and environmental policy. Things are about to change as retail and technology companies with a strong belief in renewable energy are stepping up, urging lawmakers to tighten the United States’ clean energy standards. These are corporate giants, with power and money to wield, and they are making a difference. There’s no denying that business is becoming a powerful new ally in the U.S. political battle to reign in carbon pollution and stabilize a changing climate.

Right now, many companies are in the process of transitioning to 100 percent renewable energy voluntarily – using sources such as wind and solar to power their business. And those companies are big ones, including Apple, IKEA, Google, and Facebook. Some of those have teamed up to advise lawmakers to make this type of transition a guideline in all 50 states. The diversity of companies is remarkable. From IKEA to eBay to Mars, Inc., each company is publicly supporting policies that expand the generation of renewable energy and make it more accessible through a variety of prospective incentives.

“There is real corporate interest in getting renewables, not just for PR purposes and reputational enhancement, but also based on economics and eco-efficiency,” said Zdravka Tzankova, an Associate Professor at Vanderbilt University who studies environmental policy. “Companies often find themselves butting up against a complex and antiquated electricity market that is beholden to the fossil fuel lobby and won’t adapt fast enough for their needs. While there is still plenty of on-the-ground work that must be done to expand the delivery of clean energy across the country, that’s not really the problem.”

The problem is a political one. Today, large corporations have realized there is massive economic power in teaming up to push pro-environmental legislation. Tzankvoa believes this type of coalition will be a “game-changer” for the United States.

As corporations make these huge pledges to go carbon-free and cut emissions, often using solar and wind power, they are quickly realizing that renewable energy cuts costs. The cost of large-scale solar and wind technologies are comparable to traditional fossil fuels, and they are continuing to fall. These corporations recognize that a demonstration of the cost savings and benefits they’ve experienced can influence others significantly. Additionally, fierce competition is heating up among those corporations as they aim to decarbonize all of the impacts of their operations, challenging each other over and over again to bring more renewables onto the energy grid. For example, in September 2020, Google announced its largest ever-renewable energy procurement announcement, announcing 18 new renewable energy agreements, knocking Facebook out of the top spot of the voluntary renewable energy purchasers list – lighting a fire of competition sure to keep each company moving further and further toward a fully sustainable internal ecosystem.

But one piece remains missing: state law support. Recent research shows that over the last few years, more companies, including Procter & Gamble, Unilever, Ben & Jerry’s, Target, Apple, and Microsoft, are urging lawmakers directly to tighten states’ clean energy standards, limit energy companies’ carbon emissions, and loosen power utilities’ stranglehold over options for cleaner electricity. Some of those asks are directed towards consumers, including asking state regulators to push utilities to give electricity buyers better options. This essentially means if your local electric provider doesn’t use renewable energy sources, you can opt-out and have access to a more sustainable power provider.

The big advocates behind this new trend of large businesses pushing for renewables are non-profits such as Advanced Energy Economy, Ceres, and the World Resources Institute, all working hard to mobilize corporate political influence and power behind the pro-renewables policy agenda. Ceres alone has more than 3,500 powerful members advocating for strong climate, clean energy, and water policies at the state and federal levels.

This legislative push will have a huge impact on our country’s carbon emissions, sustainability, and even our health. It’s also a giant opportunity for the U.S. to set a standard worldwide, and serve as an example to other countries around the world. As these companies and organizations work for increased adoption of renewable energy and energy efficiency, increased investment in a clean energy economy, and increased support for environmental resilience, more and more join in the push to a fully renewable American economy, creating a better life for us all.

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