Commercial, Distributed Generation, Finance, Industrial, Regulation, Solar, Sourcing Renewables, Wind  -  November 12, 2017 - By Megan Corsano

RESF wrap-up: Corporate renewable energy buyers chart path toward a cleaner, more sustainable future

Attendees at the SED Renewable Energy Sourcing Forum, talk about the challenges associated with renewable power contract terms during a breakout group discussion Nov. 8. 

More than 140 corporate energy buyers and sellers gathered at the PGA National Resort in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., from Nov. 8 through 10 for the 2017 Smart Energy Decisions Renewable Energy Sourcing Forum, where they discussed corporate procurement trends and strategies for setting and achieving renewable energy goals. 

The event launched Nov. 8 with three keynote presentations from executives at Altenex, Amazon Web Services and Intel Corp.

Day two started with a presentation from  General Motors' global manager of renewable energy, Rob Threlkeld. He discussed challenges he needed to overcome within GM's renewable energy sourcing journey associated with establishing a cohesive company mission around their renewable energy goals and convincing the finance teams at the company to see the value in those projects.

Day two of the Renewable Energy Sourcing Forum also included a look at how energy sourcing ties in with the larger policies at play within the U.S. federal administration. Rowena Striff, energy manager at Lockheed Martin Aeronautics, spoke about the impact politics has on the renewable energy industry, especially with the recently proposed cuts to federal agencies such as the U.S. EPA and DOE.

Striff was followed by a Q&A session with John Powers, vice president of strategic renewables at Schneider Electric Energy and Sustainability Services, about strategies for approaching the international renewable energy market. Powers mentioned Mexico, India and Australia as leaders in the terms of providing incentives for onsite projects that have created attractive opportunities for corporate buyers. 

Joby Carlson

Joby Carlson, global director of sustainable energy and operations for Walmart speaks to RESF attendees Nov. 9. 

The day wrapped up with a presentation by Joby Carlson, global director of sustainable energy and operations at Wal-Mart Stores Inc. Carlson addressed the progress Walmart has made since setting its first renewable energy goal in 2005, including its onsite systems totaling more than 460 sites across 17 states and five countries, as well as 10 large agreements with offsite sources that power operations in the United States, Mexico and the United Kingdom.

As a result, Carlson said the company has seen a decoupling of its growth from its costs and carbon impact.

In between keynote presentations, buyers had the opportunity to sit in on case study discussions from various suppliers to learn more about the successful projects they had implemented. These discussions led up to one-on-one meetings between buyers and sellers on the last day of the conference for those interested in pursuing potential partnerships.

The 2017 Renewable Energy Sourcing Forum wrapped up with a Q&A session with Ben Chadwick, executive director of renewables origination at Constellation, about managing virtual risk with retail electric supply.

"Customers are increasingly taking a greater interest in sustainability and a greater interest in control," Chadwick said about the trends he sees in corporate energy procurement. 

He also issued a warning for companies looking to join the growing number of organizations turning to virtual power purchase agreements to begin their renewable energy journey. Alluding to the batch of VPPAs currently underwater amid low wholesale power prices, Chadwick said while there are certainly benefits to taking that route, the structure does not come without risk.

"A lot of those VPPA transactions folks were entering into ... weren't exactly the transactions they thought they were entering into," he said. "They're not for everybody, and I certainly think that physical solutions, where possible, are something to look at as well."

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