By Julia Pyper for GreenTech Media
Large corporations aren’t typically thought of as environmental champions. But these companies now stand to be one of the most powerful advocates for clean energy in the U.S. — both in Washington, D.C. and in states across the country.
A December report by Advanced Energy Economy (AEE) found that 71 of the Fortune 100 companies currently have renewable energy or sustainability targets, up from 60 companies just two years ago. Commitments among Fortune 500 companies have held steady over the past two years at 43 percent, or 215 firms.
Of the Fortune 500 companies, AEE reports that 22 have committed to powering all of their operations with renewable energy, including Wal-Mart and General Motors — the CEOs of which have been selected to join President-elect Donald Trump’s business advisory council. A total of 83 companies from around the world have now committed to going 100 percent renewable through the RE100 initiative. Google announced in December that it will meet its renewable energy target in 2017.
“We’re really encouraged by all the progress that we’ve made [on renewable energy procurement], but there’s a lot of work to do,” said Michael Terrell, energy policy lead at Google, in an interview during GreenBiz’s Verge conference last fall. “We need to meet the growing needs of our business and our industry, and also help grow the space more generally.”
Sustainability targets are good news for states. “Companies are deploying their private capital to finance projects that will bring in new jobs and tax revenue while improving the resource diversity of the grid and in some cases decreasing reliance on imported electricity,” according to the AEE paper. “But in many states, there are not clear mechanisms for companies to fulfill their commitment to procure advanced energy.”
In a changing political landscape — with a new Republican administration and Congress that’s hostile to climate action — corporations stand to play a leading role in advocating for low-carbon energy resources at the national level. Trump recently met with leaders at Apple, Facebook and Google, all of which have set a 100 percent renewable energy target. Trump is also being advised by solar and electric-vehicle champion Elon Musk, and has spoken with Bill Gates, the co-founder of Microsoft, who recently launched a $1 billion cleantech and climate action fund.