Thought Leadership Series

Eighty Percent Renewable Energy Use: How Iron Mountain Drives Sustainability

Thought Leadership Series: Kevin Hagen

Iron Mountain is a leader in corporate renewable energy procurements, with a mixture of on- and off-site transactions. Learn more about Iron Mountain’s renewables portfolio here.

Kevin Hagen leads the community engagement and environmental responsibility elements of Iron Mountain’s Corporate Responsibility efforts. With over 1,400 facilities in 45 countries, $3.8+ billion in sales and more than 25,000 employees, Iron Mountain is a leader in document and data storage and management, serving over 94 percent of the Fortune 1000. The company has committed to know, share and address the environmental and social impacts of its business because they believe doing so will create more value for their communities, their employees and their shareholders.

How does Iron Mountain think about the financial value of renewables?

Iron Mountain’s business is built for the long-term. Our customers count on us to care for their key assets for a long time, often measured in decades. As a result, long-term rate stability is extremely important to us. Because renewable generation has no ‘fuel cost’, it is inherently more predictable than fossil fuel generation. Capturing this stability factor in our contracting vehicles and our financial assessments has been one of the most compelling aspects of switching to renewable resources.

How have you made the case for renewables to the Iron Mountain C-suite?

Once we recognized the fit between our needs and renewable energy’s inherent advantage for long-term rate stability, the key was translating that into a convincing financial analysis. Modeling that showed both the volatility and the range of potential future grid pricing made the case for renewables rate stability, and realizing that we would be likely to pay less than grid over time was the icing on the cake.

How have Iron Mountain’s customers responded to the renewables portfolio?

Our data center co-location customers are the most favorability impacted and directly see the benefits of both rate stability and carbon neutral operations. In our base document and asset storage business, energy cost is not a key driver to customer decisions; however, many of our customers see Iron Mountain’s unique use of renewable energy as an indicator that we’re an innovative, creative company with an ability to see things differently. They understand that our work with renewables reflects an overall desire and ability to reduce risks and drive value.

What’s been the biggest surprise as Iron Mountain has engaged in the renewables market and has executed its PPAs?

The level of collaboration we’ve enjoyed with other companies, NGOs and peer organizations has been a little surprising but very gratifying. We learned a lot from companies who went before us, and we’ve been pleased to engage with organizations such as the Renewable Energy Buyers Alliance (REBA), Rocky Mountain Institute’s Business Renewable Center (BRC), and many informal peer networks. These platforms have opened channels of communication to share our experience and helped us learn faster.

Iron Mountain worked with an outside advisor. How did that serve the process?

Part of the challenge of doing something new is that you don’t know what you don’t know. The renewable energy market is still pretty young, and it’s not always clear what projects or partners are ready for primetime. Working with folks who do this every day and understand the landscape can reduce risks and accelerate the process. Another advantage of an advisor was that they helped translate the issues to the many internal stakeholders engaged across the business, from risk to treasury to legal. Being able to rely on folks who spoke the right language in all those areas helped my colleagues gain confidence in and figure out this new area much more quickly.

Iron Mountain is closing in on 100 percent renewables: What’s next?

We’re pleased with progress, but the last 10 or 20 percent will likely be the most difficult. We need to work with partners and utility companies to figure out competitive green power alternatives for regulated markets and for our international portfolio.

What advice would you offer to a company considering a new renewables initiative?

You don’t have to start from scratch. Several collaborative platforms like REBA or the EPA Green Power Partnership can help get up to speed quickly on the many options that exist. One size does not fit all and there are many ways to consider renewables. A key is to identify your company priorities early — and as we discovered, there are many reasons renewable solutions and products can be attractive; it’s not always just about reducing near-term costs.

Edison Energy’s Thought Leadership Series features conversations with leading stakeholders from across the commercial, industrial, and institutional energy industries. The experts here have helped their organizations capture the financial-, risk- and sustainability-value of energy; through on- and off-site renewables, through efficiency, and through commodity procurement. Visit frequently or join our email list to keep up to date with the latest insights from the people who are making it happen.

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