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Corporate Purchasing Helps Push Renewable Energy To Banner Year

Amazon takes corporate buying lead.

Big businesses made huge investments in renewable energy last year despite facing a “wave of adversity,” according to a clean energy research organization.

BloombergNEF published a report on Jan. 26 which revealed that in 2020, corporations around the world boosted buying of renewable energy by nearly 18 percent from 2019  — from 20.1 gigawatts to 23.6 gigawatts.

Leading the way was U.S. company Amazon, which signed 35 power purchase agreements at a total of 5.1 gigawatts of electricity, making it the world’s largest buyer of clean energy in 2020.

“Amazon is helping fight climate change by moving quickly to power our businesses with renewable energy,” Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos said in a statement on Amazon’s website in Dec. 2020. Adding that the company had invested in 127 solar and wind power projects globally.

With its 2020 commitments, Amazon has purchased more green energy than any company around the world to date. Its total of 7.5 gigawatts now puts the online retailer ahead of Google’s 6.6 gigawatts and Facebook’s 5.9 gigawatts.

“Amazon is now the biggest corporate buyer of renewable energy ever” Bezos said. “We are on a path to running 100 percent of our business on renewable energy by 2025 — five years ahead of our original target of 2030.”

During 2020, French oil producer Total was the next leading buyer at 3 gigawatts, while Taiwanese semiconductor maker TSMC was the third-leading purchaser with 1.2 gigawatts.

“Corporations faced a wave of adversity in 2020 — internal corporate functions were disrupted on the outset of the pandemic, and many companies saw revenues plummet as global economies buckled,” said BloombergNEF senior associate Kyle Harrison, who was lead author of the research report ‘1H 2021 Corporate Energy Market Outlook’.

“Question marks before — and after — the U.S. election further complicated long-term decision-making for companies. To not only maintain, but grow, the clean energy procurement market under these conditions is a testament to how high sustainability is on many corporations’ agendas.”

The major investment in renewable energy by corporations internationally saw a boost to the wind and solar power industries in the U.S. — both recording record figures in 2020.

The U.S. wind industry installed nearly 17 gigawatts of wind power in 2020, enough to power 5 million homes, with a record 10.5 gigawatts coming in the year’s final quarter, a Feb. 4 report by the American Clean Power Association showed.

The growth brings total wind power operating capacity in the U.S. to more than 122 gigawatts, which the association estimates is enough to power 38 million homes.

“2020 was a banner year for the wind industry,” said association CEO Heather Zichal. “Despite all the challenges COVID-19 placed on our businesses, we still shattered nearly every record for capacity and growth.”

The fourth quarter was not only the strongest quarter on record, but it also saw more wind installed in just that quarter than in any full year in the modern industry’s 40 plus year history, except 2012.

And more growth in wind power is coming, as 34.5 gigawatts — more than double the wind capacity installed in 2020 — is either under construction or in advanced development in the U.S., the association reports.

Meanwhile, a Feb. 18 report from BloombergNEF and the Business Council for Sustainable Energy showed that solar installations rose to 16.5 gigawatts, beating the previous high set in 2016.

Amazon is leading companies worldwide in purchasing wind, solar and other green energy. (Jordan Stead/Amazon)

“The continued growth of clean energy in the United States, in spite of the economic downturn and the challenges of the pandemic, demonstrates that the market for these technologies is maturing and the portfolio is highly resilient,” said council president Lisa Jacobson.

The American Clean Power Association cited several reasons for the growth of renewable energy.

Rising consumer demand was boosted by continued drops in prices for renewable energy technology that have made green power more competitive in the marketplace.

Corporate demand also continues to rise as more companies commit to sustainability goals. Plus, tax incentives are also playing a role in renewable energy adoption.

Another key technology in renewable energy development also saw significant gains in 2020, the group said. Utility-scale energy storage systems grew by 300 percent, adding 734 megawatts across the country.

The total installed battery capacity in 2020 comprised more than 40 percent of the U.S.’s total utility-scale energy storage systems.

Of the newly-installed energy storage capacity, California saw the lion’s share, as 85 percent of the utility-scale batteries were added in the Golden State. More than half of the utility-scale batteries in the country have been installed in California, the report showed.

(Edited by Rebecca Bird and Bryan Wilkes)