The record-smashing, exponential increase in renewable energy adoption happening all over the world right now is taking place in every imaginable quarter. When it comes to innovation, however, there are always true leaders. Here are the sectors that have shown the strongest, clearest vision when it comes to implementing solar and wind power ahead of the pack.
- Data Centers. According to a recent analysis by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), the IT sector is increasing purchases of renewable energy. This year HP and SunEdison announced an agreement for 112 megawatts of wind power for the tech dynamo’s data centers. Other tech companies that have started down the path include Salesforce, Intel, Apple, Facebook, and Google, which currently powers about 35% of its operations with renewables. Dutch telecom KPN has gotten all its energy from renewable sources since 2013. Long-term commitments by such companies often include 20-year power purchase agreements and/or development of renewable-energy generation near new data centers.
- Emerging Economies. A recent report from Bloomberg New Energy Finance revealed that the world’s emerging economies are adopting renewable energy at nearly twice the rate as industrialized nations. Why? Economies centered in Africa, Asia, Latin America, and the Caribbean don’t necessarily have the entrenched fossil-fuel fired systems of more developed nations, so they can more readily take advantage of renewables’ cost competitiveness — a strategy could help them leapfrog to the top. About 1.5 billion people in the world don’t yet have access to electricity and another 1.5 billion can’t get reliable power. Most of these folks are located in emerging economies. Innovative business models and new technologies are helping to tap this unmet need and expand access dramatically.
- Finance. It’s not a big surprise that institutions well versed in creating return on investment are attracted to the financial benefits of renewable energy. Leading financial technology and media company Bloomberg L.P. just announced a major clean energy initiative. Other major financial services providers that are introducing clean energy include Goldman Sachs, Switzerland-based UBS, British insurance multinational Aviva, and German banking giant Commerzbank. These companies are part of a larger group dubbed the RE100, a collection of influential companies that have committed to shifting over to 100% renewable energy. This group also includes powerhouse corporations such as Starbucks, Nike, IKEA, H&M, Johnson & Johnson, Mars, Walmart, and Nestlé.
- Cities. As population centers with powerful built-in incentives to reduce costs as well as strong, pre-existing relationships with utilities, cities worldwide have long since played a leading role in driving the clean energy revolution. Along with thousands of cities that have begun to implement a partial transition to renewables, an elite subset has emerged that is moving to run exclusively on clean energy including San Francisco, California; Stockholm, Sweden; Vancouver, Canada and Aspen, Colorado — the third U.S. city to commit to 100% renewables.
- Schools. Natural centers of enlightenment and savvy cost management, schools have a uniquely broad set of stakeholders who benefit from renewable energy projects. Facilities managers, for example, recognize the long-term savings potential while teachers enjoy the myriad educational opportunities, especially in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) related subjects. From Parkway School District in suburban St. Louis County to Rio Rancho High School in New Mexico, the Solar Energy Industry Association estimates there are already 3,752 U.S. schools with solar installations. At SunEdison, we’ve helped public entities including schools go solar, helping them meet their commitments to fiscal responsibility as well as community engagement.