The nation’s largest companies are rapidly embracing renewable energy sourcing and greenhouse gas emissions reduction efforts, according to a new report from Calvert Investments, Ceres, David Gardiner & Associates, and World Wildlife Fund (WWF).
The analysis, released Thursday, reveals that these efforts are the new “business as usual” among many of the country’s largest companies, with 43 percent of Fortune 500 companies having set targets in at least one of three categories: reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, improving energy efficiency, and procuring more renewable energy.
Power Forward 2.0: How American Companies are Setting Clean Energy Targets and Capturing Greater Business Value shows that clean energy is becoming mainstream for U.S. corporations — with 60 percent of the Fortune 100 having goals for renewable energy or greenhouse gas reductions. Through these initiatives, the 53 Fortune 100 companies reporting on climate and energy targets have collectively saved $1.1 billion annually and decreased their annual CO2 emissions by approximately 58.3 million metric tons — the equivalent of retiring 15 coal-fired power plants.
85 percent of the Fortune 100 companies whose targets ended in 2012 achieved their goals. And Fortune 100 industry leaders are cashing in significant savings, with UPS (annually saving more than $200 million), Cisco Systems ($151 million), PepsiCo ($120 million), United Continental ($104 million), and General Motors ($73+ million) posting the greatest improvements to their bottom line.
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The report shows that the companies setting and meeting efficiency, GHG emissions reductions and renewable sourcing goals are reaping the economic benefits of helping lead global efforts to limit global warming to 2 degrees Celsius — the level scientists agree is necessary to limit catastrophic climate change and protect our way of life.
Walmart, for example, now produces more solar power than 38 U.S. states. The company has more than 180 renewable energy projects in operation or development around the world and generates 89 megawatts (MW) of solar across 215 locations.
Earlier in 2013, Walmart partnered with SolarCity to install solar on another 60 stores in California, part if the company’s goal to have solar power on 75 percent of its stores in the state. The company also is testing other projects, such as micro wind, large-scale wind farms, solar water heating and solar thermal to maximize the renewable energy potential of each location.
Despite significant progress, corporate investments in clean energy are not yet at the scale we need, the report says. Several companies have yet to set goals while others are facing challenges to accelerate their use of renewable energy. Obstacles including regional cost-parity issues between renewable energy and subsidized fossil-based energy; internal competition for capital; and inconsistent policies that send mixed signals to companies and investors in renewable energy projects must be resolved to further accelerate these efforts.
The report offers several recommendations for US policymakers, including promoting tax credits or other incentives that level the cost playing field for renewable energy, particularly, extending the Production Tax Credit for wind energy this year; maintaining and expanding Renewable Portfolio Standards in states that do not have them; removing policy hurdles in states that prevent companies from contracting to buy the cheapest renewable power available and building on-site renewable power generation; and market-based solutions that put a price on the pollution from conventional energy generation.
In another recent report, Ceres said that though US companies might be making progress on the sustainability front, far too many are only taking small, incremental steps to address pressing sustainability issues that could impact their bottom lines and the future of our planet and economy.