Companies Are Riding the Renewable Energy Wave but Skipping Other Energy-Saving Measures
Ken Silverstein | Forbes
Sun Chemical is now deploying onsite and offsite renewable energy programs as a way to cut electricity costs and to improve environmental performance. Its latest effort is the installation of rooftop and carport solar panels, all under a contract to buy the output at a fixed cost to serve one of its production facilities in New Jersey — a deal that it says has saved it $400,000.
Businesses, generally, are getting primed to do business in the New Energy Economy, meaning they are focused on reducing heat trapping emissions and relying increasingly on sustainable fuels to power facilities. That awareness, in fact, is growing exponentially, all brought on by the falling cost of technologies that are enabling the evolution. Companies, nevertheless, may be oblivious to other energy-saving strategies that would add even more value.
“Over the last two to four years, renewable technologies have become more cost effective in many countries and markets around the world,” Bill Brewer, vice president of Energy and Sustainability Services at Schneider Electric, told this writer. “Companies are now evaluating these opportunities.
“But they could be doing a lot more,” he said, referencing a new research report that looks at how organizations are preparing to participate in the clean energy economy. “There is a lack of coordination and strategic planning and an inability to share budgets to get greater buying power. There is also insufficient knowledge that these programs are out there, and it all takes expertise and time.”
Schneider Electric joined with GreenBiz to survey nearly 240 companies with revenues of $100 million or more a year. Roughly 85% of respondents said they are taking action over the next three years to reduce their carbon footprints. Outside of renewables, however, only a small percentage are implementing more advanced strategies and technologies to manage energy and emissions: localized microgrids, energy storage devices, programs to shift energy usage during peak periods or cloud-based data-sharing tools — to name a few.
While its research says that 51% of those it surveyed will implement renewable energy programs, other analyses show that number to be as high as 72%: PriceWaterhouseCoopers said that businesses are doing so to cut costs and to meet their environmental goals, or reduce CO2 levels.
“The movement toward renewables is likely due to C-level interest and support,” says the Schneider-GreenBiz report titled The State of Corporate Energy and Sustainability Programs 2018. “Whether their role involves recommending, reviewing or approving projects, 82% reported being involved at some level in sustainability and renewable energy initiatives.”
The most progressive businesses want to operate their facilities using solely green energy. Such companies include Facebook, Google and Microsoft Corp. as well as Walmart and Bank of America. Companies can either buy renewable power in the form of power purchase agreements, invest directly in those projects or own and operate them outright.
Those companies also have the capacity to collect and analyze data as well as to integrate decision making throughout their geographically-spread business operations — “assets” that are absent in other companies. Being green and clean is also key to each of their corporate missions. Google, for example, has announced that it reached its goal of using 100% renewable energy — or, more precisely, purchasing as many green terawatt hours as it consumes annually.
Yum Brands, meanwhile, is less known for its green initiatives but which is driven to connect with environmentally-conscious customers: It has about 43,000 facilities in nearly 140 countries that include KFCs, Taco Bells and Pizza Huts. With this huge global footprint, one of its biggest challenges is measuring its carbon footprint and deploying strategies that have positive “payback.”
Its initial task is to get the data on how much energy each store is using, as well as how much gasoline its vehicles are consuming. Using that information, plus a lot of other data, it can gauge its emission levels.
“Is it an obvious part of your brand DNA, like Starbucks, in which customers associate it with a sustainable product,” David Harpring, director of global sustainability and engineering for Yum Brands in Louisville, KY., in an earlier talk with this writer. “If it is not, then most companies first approach sustainability from a business perspective — to drive results. It has to have a good payback.”
With the falling price of renewable energy technologies, companies are better positioned to implement clean tech strategies and to more quickly recoup their investments. But some of that momentum is lost because they are foregoing other accessible strategies — everything from energy efficiency to information gathering. Advanced enterprises are taking full advantage, riding that green wave and leading the New Energy Economy.
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