Dispatches from the market at REBA Summit ‘17

Renewable energy is here to stay, and corporate buyers are ON IT.

By: Kevin Haley, Manager, Rocky Mountain Institute

In sunny, breezy Santa Clara, California, a growing army of energy procurement managers, global supply teams, directors of resource planning, VPs, COOs and more recently came together to chart the path forward on turning corporate sustainability plans into renewable energy actions.

This year’s Renewable Energy Buyers Alliance (REBA) Summit in September, 2017, was the largest meeting to date with over 430 participants and staff representing companies ranging from Gap, Inc. to Starbucks, to United Airlines and Tesla. Their goal? Learn about renewable energy procurement and figure out how to make it cheaper, easier to obtain, and in larger quantities than ever.

A Strong & Growing Market

This is shaping up to be strong year for corporate renewable energy purchases. As of the 2017 REBA Summit, corporate buyers have contracted for more than 2 GW of clean power, up from 1.61 GW in 2016. Even more importantly, 13 of the 16 companies that transacted this year were first-time buyers, indicating that corporate interest in clean energy remains strong. This was the backdrop for the REBA Summit, and corporates were eager to build consensus on new solutions

Emerging Solutions: Aggregation

One such solution that’s captured the industry’s attention is the aggregated transaction model. As industry standardization and overall education improves, groups of buyers are beginning to align their goals and purchasing strategies to explore deals that can cover aggregated energy demand. REBA’s attendees reported strong interest in the concept, and over 60% of those in the audience plan moderate aggregated deal activity in the next 12 months.

Emerging Solutions: Utility Tariffs

Another trend that drove conversations at REBA this year is the growing role of utilities in meeting corporate’s growing desire for additional clean power. For the first time, REBA invited utilities into the audience to review the growth green tariffs and participate in discussions on how to improve those structures to better meet customer demand. Data from the World Resources Institute, a REBA partner, shows that utility offerings are increasing across the country, and some companies like Facebook have had good success in working directly with select utilities companies to design products that work for their unique needs.

A Different Kind of Energy Conference

One of the most important secrets to making the REBA Summit a success is the format for the gathering. Unlike most energy conferences, REBA’s gatherings are anchored by a collaboration-heavy agenda of table topics and deep dive sessions. This means fewer panel speakers talking at audiences on their iPhones, and more direct discussion between market participates in a “pre-commercial” environment that allows for an honest evaluation of opportunities and challenges.

The REBA Summit is also designed to challenge assumptions and advance beyond the market status quo. Normally isolated networks of buyers or developers or NGOs are brought together at the Summit to exchange competing views on how the market is evolving. A good example of this is found in the Transaction Barriers Word Cloud from this year’s event, where buyers and developers voted separately on the biggest barriers to a successful, streamlined transaction:

By the second day of the Summit, participants had identified 7 focus areas to bring to the closing “solutions discussion.” Drawing on the networks’ differences and bringing them together to collaborate helps REBA achieve its goal of finding market-led solutions and allows stakeholders to learn from each other’s differing viewpoints.  

  •      International Supply Chain
  •      Renewable Energy Procurement to Carbon Impact
  •      Advancing Utilities Conversations
  •      100% Renewable Energy Goals as the Grid Greens
  •      Advancing Policy Solutions
  •      Renewable Thermal Opportunity
  •      Business Case for Transactions

Here’s What’s Next

These topics will serve as the guideposts for the REBA coalition’s work over the next six months. For the Business Renewables Center specifically, we have selected the following three areas to focus our efforts over the next six months:

  •      Helping new potential buyers to move more quickly along the curve to transact.
  •      Helping sellers better understand the needs of these buyers so they can more effectively meet demand.
  •      Exploring market transformation that could unlock opportunities in the future.

Our work between now and the next BRC Annual Meeting on March 1-2 in 2018  (save the date!) will address these challenges, and provide actionable solutions to some of the sector’s biggest challenges. Our popular Bootcamps will continue, with Buyers’ and Developers’ Bootcamps already scheduled for early 2018. And our new Buyers’ Roadmap is now live for BRC members, offering an online learning experience to familiarize users with the large-scale, off-site PPA transaction process, and resources like a CFO Pitch Deck for successfully building internal consensus.

Corporate involvement and feedback

We want to hear from you! The Business Renewables Center is only as strong as its members, and while we’ve grown from just 27 founding members in 2015 to 214 members today, that’s not even halfway to the full Fortune 500! To get involved with BRC and participate in our next Annual Meeting, Bootcamp, or just browse through our collection of educational materials and market analysis tools, please get in touch. To hear feedback from competitors, peers, stakeholders, and major companies learning to purchase renewable energy, the BRC would welcome feedback and your involvement.

To quote REBA Summit keynote speaker, Urs Hölzle, SVP for Technical Infrastructure at Google, “Let’s not be shy about demanding new solutions. As a group, we have a lot of purchasing power, and a consumer that buys a lot of the market, must be heard. It’s on us to be that voice and to make ourselves heard.”