United States

United States

'Up to 85GW corporate PPA demand through to 2030'

The renewable energy demands of the 1,000 biggest companies in the US could create a need for up to 85GW of corporate procurement through to 2030, according to new research.

2018's top renewable energy procurer Facebook plans to power its Los Lunas data centre in New Mexico (above) with wind
2018's top renewable energy procurer Facebook plans to power its Los Lunas data centre in New Mexico (above) with wind

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Improving project economics and the hedging opportunities offered by federally supported renewables are encouraging Fortune 1000 companies to source wind and solar power, analysts at Wood Mackenzie and the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) found.

Wood Mackenzie’s head of wind research Dan Shreve added that "peer pressure" among Fortune 1000 companies — a ranking by US business magazine Fortune of the 1,000 companies with the highest revenues — was also helping to create an atmosphere of "increased market participation" in renewables procurement.

However, renewables still only meet 5% of these companies' power needs, creating a potential renewable energy demand of up to 85GW by 2030, Wood Mackenzie and AWEA forecast.

"In the absence of a federal mandate to decarbonise the US power grid, corporates are stepping up their efforts to address climate change," Shreve added.

Last year, the US's 1,000 largest companies sourced 6.5GW of clean energy — a new annual record .

Companies such as Facebook, Amazon and Google currently favour wind procurement over solar PV — but demand for the latter is increasing, and solar PV may soon catch up in regions traditionally dominated by wind, the researchers found.

"Wind and solar are stronger in different parts of the country, so states must ensure they have competitive policies and adequate transmission infrastructure to attract investment in renewable projects and business activities that they will power," said AWEA CEO Tom Kiernan. 

However, continuing tariffs on solar modules and the impending expiration of the investment tax credit (ITC) for solar PV projects could hinder corporate uptake of the technology, according to the report.

Shreve added: "Power market dynamics and the continued reduction of solar power’s costs will place significant competitive pressure on wind.

"A step change in turbine performance or further cost reductions will be critical for wind to compete amidst ever increasing renewables penetration."

"Long-term, transmission expansion and large-scale, long-duration energy storage solutions are critical to connecting major load centres in the east and west to low cost wind generation from the central wind corridor of the US."

Facebook and Google signed power purchase agreements for 2.2GW and 2.1GW of renewables respectively in 2018, according to the research.

Amazon procured 1.1GW, ahead of AT&T, Walmart and Apple (all 0.8GW).

Fleet forecast

Meanwhile, a separate forecast predicted renewables’ share of total installed capacity in the US will double to 30% between 2018 and 2030.

Data and analytics company GlobalData said there could be 442.8GW of clean energy installed in the US by 2030 — accounting for 30% of total capacity, up from 15% last year.

This increase will represent a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 7.3%, and will be primarily due to more states adopting and updating their renewable energy policies and imposing emissions taxes that increase the cost of fossil fuel power generation.

Offshore wind is expected to have the largest growth rate during the forecast period, according to GlobalData industry analyst Arkapal Sil, ahead of solar PV and onshore wind.

Its installed capacity will grow from a single 30MW project in 2018 to 11.7GW by 2030, the data company forecast, representing a CAGR of 72%.

Onshore wind had experienced a CAGR of 22% between 2000 and 2018, reaching 96.3GW by the end of last year.

Its CAGR will slow to 5% through to 2030, rising to 185.5GW by the end of the forecast period, GlobalData predicted. However, its share of the US’ total installed capacity will rise from 8% in 2018 to 12% by 2030.

Meanwhile, solar PV will grow from 73.5GW in 2018 to 220GW by 2030 — a CAGR of 10%.

By comparison, coal-based capacity is expected to decline from 27.2% in 2018 to 13.5% in 2030, while the increased cost of nuclear, due to higher safety standards, will lead to slight decline in nuclear capacity by 2030.

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