Low Oil Prices Not Dampening Corporate Commitments to Green Energy

Industrial Steam Clouds

By Maura Forrest

January 29, 2015

More and more companies are voluntarily turning to renewable energy to power their businesses, according to a new report from The Climate Group. The findings were published as questions are being raised about the impact of falling oil prices on the green energy industry.

The report found that solar power is the most popular form of renewable energy for businesses, in part because they can install panels where they are “immediately visible to colleagues, customers and other stakeholders to showcase their commitment to renewable power.” From 2012 to 2013, companies in the U.S. installed over 1,000 megawatts of solar capacity.

Energy from biomass is also taking off, as companies realize they can use their own organic waste to generate power and heat. Businesses that don’t want to invest in their own energy infrastructure are setting up power purchase agreements with renewable energy providers, or offsetting their energy use by purchasing renewable energy credits.

Thus far, companies in the heavy industry, construction, and manufacturing sectors have invested the most in renewable energy.

The report comes amid concerns that low oil prices could hurt the renewable energy industry. In Canada and the U.S., renewable energy stocks have dropped alongside those of oil companies.

But, some argue that renewable power won’t be affected much by the influx of cheap oil. That’s because oil only accounts for five per cent of global power generation, compared to 25 per cent in 1973.

“As far as solar and wind go, the [impact] from lower oil prices is zero in North America and Europe, where power prices do not have any link to oil,” said Pavel Molchanov, a senior research analyst at Raymond James Financial, in an interview with the Guardian.

In fact, global investments in renewable energy jumped 16 per cent in 2014, even as oil prices tumbled.

The Climate Group’s report was published as part of its RE100 campaign, which was launched last fall to encourage 100 of the world’s largest companies to commit to 100 per cent renewable power by 2020. Thus far, 15 companies have signed on to the campaign, including the IKEA Group, Mars, Nestlé, and H&M.

The efforts of these individual companies were showcased in the report. Mars, for example, has installed facilities that transform food waste to biogas in factories in Asia and Europe. At Nestlé’s factories in Mexico, 85 per cent of the energy demand is supplied by wind power. And, IKEA recently announced the purchase of a 165-megawatt wind farm in Texas.