Private corporations and US cities understand that renewable energy can help them if utilized wisely. This has resulted in an active pursuit of collaborations between private businesses and city government. Collaborations can help towards breaking down barriers to procurement. It can also accelerate progress towards climate goals. These are a few ways for private contractors and cities to collaborate for increasing renewables on the grid and driving GHG or Greenhouse Gas emissions.
1. Educate Businesses and Residents About Renewable Energy Benefits
Community energy users, such as local businesses, residents and universities should be provided with the necessary skills and tools to create a shift to renewable energy. This can include creating forums for renewable centric public-private engagements. It can also include motivating local businesses and residents to commit to renewable energy challenges.
For instance, a group of institutional leaders, civic leaders, and businesses have come together in the form of the Boston Green Ribbon Commission for developing shared strategies that advance the city’s climate action plan. The commission is co-chaired by the mayor and supports multiple renewable energy initiatives.
2. Purchase Renewable Energy Together
Corporations and cities have different reasons for procuring renewable energy. Typically, cities prefer site projects that are near communities for achieving co-benefits in the form of job creation and community education. Corporations are not that focused on location. They want procurement vehicles that provide greater flexibility and revenue opportunities.
Shared benefits, such as economies of scale, bigger impact on grid, reduced risk and better prices can be achieved by working together on procuring renewable energy. For instance, Amazon and Arlington County, Virginia collaborated in 2020 on a large-scale, off-site renewables deal. The county gets a new 120 MW solar farm that provides 80% of its energy needs. Amazon gets the remaining 68% electricity for powering its new headquarters and other operations.
3. Removing Market Barriers
Several roadblocks are encountered by renewable energy buyers currently when trying to procure renewables. Market barriers can be removed by effective collaborations between corporations and cities. For instance, the two entities can work together on wholesale electricity market decisions, engaging with the state regulatory body, working with electric utilities, and advocating for renewables-enabling policy at state-level.
Cross-sector sharing of knowledge can amplify the voice of the corporates and the city in regulatory and policy decision making while leveraging limited resources. City of Minneapolis and Target entered a partnership in 2019 to file joint comments at the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (PUC) which is something bright attributed to this city. They asked Xcel Energy to update its methodology for credit calculation to better reflect solar value on the grid.
4. Equitable Development of Renewables
Energy buyers are increasingly looking of ways to expand the benefits of renewable energy to the community. This is particularly true in the case of Black, Indigenous and people of color (BIPOC) that have been ignored in the clean energy transition. Corporations and cities can consider a wide array of emerging strategies to incorporate community benefits into request for proposals.
This will allow them to bring renewables projects into BIPOC and low-income communities. It will also help them create and support innovative financing mechanisms, such as Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs) and green banks.