Using better energy, better: global companies switching to renewable power and doubling energy productivity

Denise Puca
Reading time: 5 minutes
23 September 2016

NEW YORK: The first joint event of The Climate Group’s energy campaigns, EP100 and RE100, saw global companies showcasing the business case for energy productivity and renewable energy, and demonstrating how businesses across different regions and industries can achieve their targets and raise the bar for their climate ambitions.

The special event, run by The Climate Group during Climate Week NYC, saw new RE100 joiners General Motors and Bank of America, sharing their visions of a net-zero emissions economy, alongside EP100 members Danfoss and Mahindra & Mahindra.

The sell-out event, hosted by Baker & McKenzie, drew a diverse audience of corporates, policymakers, NGOs and the media.

Amy Davidsen, North America Executive Director, The Climate Group, said: “One of the key takeaways from this year’s Climate Week NYC is the clear pivot from talk to action in the way major businesses are approaching their energy use. It is hugely inspiring to see this leadership from US and global businesses continue, with further commitments to use 100% renewable energy across their operations, and others setting clear goals in doubling their energy productivity.”

The discussions at the event showed how EP100, led by The Climate Group in partnership with the Global Alliance for Energy Productivity, can work hand-in-hand with RE100, to help companies maximize the economic benefits of the energy they consume – and ensure what they do use for power, is renewable.

According to various studies, adopting both approaches provides the least cost decarbonization pathway for businesses.

Changing the narrative

In her keynote speech, Rachel Kyte, CEO and Special Representative for the UN Secretary General for Sustainable Energy for All (SE4All), said corporate uptake of renewable energy has changed the narrative on climate change by demonstrating mainstream investment opportunities.

But she added that a real transition to fair and sustainable energy for all would not happen if only 1% of corporates are leading the way: "If you're not a member of RE100, I question why not.”

David Tulauskas, Director of Sustainability at General Motors said there were many business benefits in transitioning to 100% renewable power, including significant cost savings. He gave the example of a power purchasing agreement for renewable power in Texas, which is expected to save US$2.8 million. He was clear to point out that the pitch to the board was not about a 100% renewable strategy – it was about a solid business plan to save money.

He also said that being part of RE100 allowed GM to work as part of a greater team, learning from other businesses that have set the same goals, and working together to scale efforts and impact.

“That's what being part of RE100 is about”, he said, “by working together we're stronger, more influential and effective”.

Policy and technology solutions

Following a discussion with John Galyen, North America President of Danfoss, which this week joined EP100 with a goal to double its energy productivity, there was a wider discussion on how best to scale efforts and accelerate the transition to cleaner and smarter energy.

Alex Liftman, Global Environment Executive, Bank of America, joined fellow panelists Anirban Ghosh, VP of Sustainability, Mahindra & Mahindra; Melanie Nakagawa, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Energy Transformation, US Department of State; and Greg Wetstone, President, American Council on Renewable Energy.

The conversation began by recognizing the barriers to scaling renewables – in many cases due to lack of supportive policy and in some cases, conflicting policies. However, the good news far outweighed the constraints. There was recognition that the falling costs of renewables are making the technology impossible to ignore.  And corporate commitments to renewables are providing a clear signal to the market that there are credible off takers and this is helping to build confidence in investors.

Alex Liftman referenced the growing number of financial products they are developing to support growth of new renewable energy projects and stressed that collaboration across government, businesses and investors was critical to get to the scale needed.

The diplomatic role of the US Government was also praised in helping to push forward renewables in India and Mexico.

Nigel Topping, CEO, We Mean Business summarized the positive mood of the event by highlighting the incredible position we are now in because we can clearly demonstrate the business case. He acknowledged that there is still a lot more to be done – particularly in the energy intensive sectors.

But as he pointed out, "all of our partners are committed to growing business leadership's voice so we can really accelerate climate action.”

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