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Minnesota Companies are Shaping our Clean Energy Future

Stephanie Weir

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Project Manager

The Minnesota Sustainable Growth Coalition is on the cutting edge of the corporate clean energy purchasing trend. According to GreenBiz, “more than 80 of the world’s largest corporations [have committed] to 100 percent renewable energy… As the list of completed projects grows, the trend initiated by leading companies is moving beyond the early adopters to the mainstream.” The Minnesota Sustainable Growth Coalition seeks to lead our state toward increased renewables purchasing and new clean energy option development.

Recently, the Minnesota Sustainable Growth Coalition took a huge step forward in our corporate renewable energy procurement work by hosting Renewables Purchasing: Corporate Leadership through Clean Energy. The workshop, broken into two sessions, brought together Coalition member companies and Minnesota’s business sustainability leaders at Best Buy’s corporate office to determine what renewable energy procurement options members may want to pursue individually and collectively.

DISCUSSING GREEN TARIFF PROGRAMS AND VPPAs

The first session focused on utility-based purchasing options. To lead the discussion, Environmental Initiative brought in Letha Tawney with World Resources Institute (WRI), an international expert in working closely with leaders to turn big ideas into action to sustain our natural resources.

WRI gave an overview of Minnesota’s electricity regulatory context, which constrains the options available to corporate purchasers, and facilitated utility-customer discussions to uncover the values and priorities of corporate customers and identify ways to improve future offerings. Through this discussion, members explored barriers to purchasing and the potential to develop unique green tariff products.

 

The afternoon session was facilitated by Mark Porter and Ali Rotatori with Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI), and internationally renowned expert in accelerating the adoption of market-based solutions that cost-effectively shift from fossil fuels to efficiency and renewables. Coalition members received an overview of non-utility purchasing options and Virtual Power Purchase Agreements (VPPAs), including market basics, financial considerations, and understanding risk. In addition, attendees explored the internal decision-making process required to execute a renewable energy deal. Ultimately, a VPPA is a financial agreement that requires the involvement of a variety of company functions– from energy managers to the CFO.

WHAT’S NEXT?

From here, Coalition companies and utilities are actively engaged in creating new, easier ways for private entities to purchase renewables, including exploring creating new options. These discussions will not only help companies meet their individual renewable energy goals, but it adds more sustainable sources of energy to the system, opening up opportunities for others outside of the Coalition.

In addition, members will explore the potential to aggregate our purchasing demand. Overall, we’re excited to continue our renewable energy purchasing pursuit with Minnesota’s leading companies and sustainability leaders.

Minnesota Sustainable Growth Coalition members know that, collectively, we have the power to not only add renewables to the grid, but also demonstrate clean energy leadership in our region. Ultimately, we believe there is a clear and undeniable need for businesses to work together to achieve environmental goals and advance our vision for a circular economy that runs on 100% renewable energy.

If you want to learn more about how utilities’ Integrated Resource Planning (IRP) process could evolve to accommodate a more diverse electric generation system, changing consumer demands, and a more efficient, more renewable, and lower-carbon grid, check out our upcoming Policy Forum: The Evolution of Utility Resource Planning: Designing for Disruption.


This workshop was a continuation of the Coalition’s clean energy work on renewable procurement. You can view the slides from both the morning and afternoon sessions. Earlier this year, we set the foundation for members to talk about potential actions through a webinar focused on the best practices in corporate clean energy purchasing.

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