3 tips from the trenches for corporate renewables buyers

Wind powerThe clean energy goals of some of the world’s largest companies have been trumpeted widely. At last count, there were 81 multinational organizations committed to the RE100 initiative representing businesses such as AppleBMW, Coca-Cola and others that plan to go all-in on solar, wind, and other renewable alternatives.

What’s more, a substantial portion of the renewable capacity added to the grid last year — an estimated 3.5 gigawatts, according to a recent report by Corporate Eco Forum and World Wildlife Fund — can be attributed directly to companies fed up with their inability to source cleaner electricity from their traditional utilities.

More often, however, smaller firms are finding they don’t need the purchasing clout or the procurement resources boasted by these giants of industry in order to source clean power.

Not only are there a far wider range of projects available in this “buyers’ market,” developers also are more open to “aggregate” deals that involve multiple off-takers, according to experts on a GreenBiz webcast earlier this week, “Renewable Energy Purchases: Not Just for the Fortune 100 Anymore.”

“You don’t have to be a giant energy user,” Kevin Hagen, director of corporate responsibility for $3.8 billion information management company Iron Mountain, told the seminar attendees.

The main requirements to participate are a methodical approach to risk management, a willingness to involved a cross-discipline team of negotiators, and the patience to wade through complex and evolving contracts.

“Fundamentally, a renewable energy transaction is about risk management, it’s about economic value, it’s about sustainability and climate value,” said Blaine Collison, managing director of clean energy advisory firm Altenex, told the webcast attendees. Altenex has been an advisor on some pretty prominent deals, for companies including Iron Mountain, MicrosoftGoogleProcter & Gamble and Walmart.

Here are three practical takeaways from Tuesday’s discussion (in no particular order).

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