Q: What do Google, 223 other businesses, 14 attorneys general, 11 U.S. senators, and more than 25 environmental, public health and clean energy organizations all have in common?
A: They all told the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that renewable energy should play a strong role in reducing emissions from existing power plants under its proposed Clean Power Plan.
In fact, many of these groups explicitly endorsed the “Demonstrated Growth Approach” that the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) proposed in comments to the EPA, which would increase non-hydro renewable energy sources to 23 percent of U.S. electricity sales by 2030—or nearly double EPA’s proposed renewable energy target. Recent UCS analysis shows that achieving these levels is affordable and would result in additional reductions in U.S. power plant carbon emissions from EPA’s estimated 30 percent below 2005 levels to 40 percent. (For more details, see my October blog.)
Google: “EPA’s renewable energy goals are modest”
Google’s comments to the EPA called for stronger renewable energy targets, indicating that both of EPA’s approaches resulted in “modest” levels of renewable generation. Google also identified many of the same concerns with the EPA’s methodology that we highlighted in our comments, including:
- Some states currently have more renewable generation than the EPA’s 2030 targets
- The EPA did not fully capture future state commitments to renewables under existing laws
- The EPA did not assume any increase in renewables between 2012 and 2017
- The EPA’s alternative approach used static 2012 technology deployment rates that don’t capture future innovations or cost reductions
- The EPA used outdated cost assumptions for renewables in their economic modeling
Because of these and other anomalies in EPA’s methodology, Google concluded:
For all these reasons, we believe EPA underestimates the demand and opportunity presented by renewable energy over the next 10-20 years. Accordingly, the renewable energy goals in the final rule should better account for the full range of renewable energy opportunities in states and, at the least, should certainly be no less stringent than the additions of generation already required.
Renewable energy “makes good business sense”
As a major user and investor in renewable energy, Google executives clearly know what they’re talking about. They have signed contracts for 1,040 megawatts (MW) of renewable energy—enough to provide 35 percent of Google’s electricity use in 2013, the equivalent of powering more than 300,000 U.S. households. Google’s long‐term goal is for renewable energy to provide 100 percent of their electricity needs. In addition to being a large consumer of clean zero-carbon electricity, they have invested more than $1.5 billion in 17 renewable energy projects that will add 2,500 MW of new capacity to the grid.
The main reason why Google is so bullish on renewable energy is because it’s good for their bottom line:
For example, using renewable energy helps Google diversify our power supply, provide protection against fuel price variability, and support business innovation and economic growth in the regions in which we operate. We are seeking affordable, reliable power that reduces our carbon footprint and meets the technology needs of our business … Today, renewable energy is more cost-effective in more regions of the country than ever before, and prices continue to decline.
Other Fortune 500 companies support a strong role for renewables
Like Google, 223 other businesses sent a letter to the EPA, emphasizing the important role that renewables and efficiency can play in reducing emissions and saving money as part of the Clean Power Plan. The letter was signed by 40 companies with over $100 million in annual revenues, including several Fortune 500 companies. This includes companies such as Kellogg’s, Starbucks, IKEA, Nike, Levi Strauss, Mars, and Nestlé that have recently made significant investments in renewables. For example:
- Starbucks purchased more 50 percent of its electricity from renewable energy in 2011, and has a goal of 100 percent renewable energy by 2015.
- Mars recently purchased a 200 MW wind farm in Texas that will generate enough electricity to make 13 billion Snickers bars, and provide 100 percent of their power.
Organized by the Business for Innovative Climate & Energy Policy (a project of Ceres) in coordination with CDP and the Climate Group, the letter stated:
Clean energy policies are good for our environment, the economy and companies. Increasingly, businesses rely on renewable energy and energy efficiency solutions to improve corporate performance and cut costs … 60 percent of the combined Fortune 100 and Global 100 companies have set a renewable energy goal, a greenhouse gas reduction goal or both. Today’s rules will help spur investment and provide the long-term certainty necessary for our businesses to thrive and to meet these goals.
U.S. senators propose improvements to the EPA’s renewable energy targets
On Dec. 9, eleven U.S. Senate Democrats from California, New Jersey, Hawaii, Massachusetts, Maryland, Oregon, Rhode Island and Vermont sent a letter to the EPA calling for stronger renewable energy, energy efficiency and state emission reduction targets:
For the Clean Power Plan to be a success, it must achieve the level of emission reductions that the science calls for to avoid the most dangerous impacts of climate change. Maximizing the deployment of cost-effective renewable energy and energy efficiency will be the key to achieve the necessary emissions reductions.