EGEB: Corporate clean energy buying record, Texas turbines, Vermont emissions

[We’re back!] Electrek Green Energy Brief: A daily technical, financial, and political review/analysis of important green energy news.

Today in the return of EGEB, a new report shows corporations bought a record amount of clean energy in 2018. In Texas, corporations and cities alike are looking to add more wind turbines before a federal tax credit is phased out. Meanwhile, officials and residents in Vermont are looking to take action following a 2018 report that showed emissions actually increased in spite of the state’s efforts.

Corporations purchased more clean power than ever before through power purchase agreements in 2018, according to a new report from BloombergNEF. These companies bought 13.4 gigawatts of clean power last year, which more than doubled 2017’s record of 6.1GW.

Most of this purchase activity happened in the U.S., with 8.5GW purchased in PPAs last year. Facebook did something right for once and purchased 2.6GW of renewables worldwide — BloombergNEF points out these particular purchases mostly came about through green tariffs.

One of our favorite green companies, ExxonMobil, bought 575MW of solar and wind in Texas — notably pointed out as “the first oil major to sign a clean energy PPA for its own operations.” Not that oil giants are new to wind power — BP operates a number of wind farms and even tied a wind farm in with a Tesla Powerpack project last year. But it’s not just the giants making these deals, as plenty of this new purchasing power comes from smaller buyers who aggregated their purchases. The report’s lead author, Kyle Harrison, noted:

“The aggregation model has heralded in a new generation of corporate clean energy buyers. These companies no longer need to tackle the complexities of clean energy procurement alone. They can share risks associated with credit and energy market volatility with their peers.”

Windy Texas

ExxonMobil isn’t the only one interested in Texas wind — the state leads the nation in wind power and companies are lining up to get in on the action now, UPI reports.

A tax subsidy will start to phase out in 2021 until it’s eliminated in 2025 — and the race is on to build more turbine farms while those credits still have wind power in the price range of natural gas. CEO John Billingsley Jr. of Tri Global Energy — which hopes to have 478 megawatts of new wind power finished and functioning this year — noted that tech has improved turbine efficiency.

Facebook, Walmart, GM, and Google are all involved in PPAs in the state, and cities such as Austin and San Antonio are also getting involved.

The Green, Mountain State

While it’s a race to harness the wind in Texas, Vermonters are figuring out how to deal with a statewide failure to decrease emissions. In 2005, the state set a goal to “reduce greenhouse gases from the state’s power plants, cars, and other sources by 25 percent below 1990 levels by 2012 and 50 percent by 2028,” the Boston Globe reports. But a 2018 report showed emissions increased by 16 percent over those 1990 levels.

The reasons given in the article are many, including wood-burning stoves, drafty homes, and perhaps most importantly, residents taking long solo drives in aging, inefficient pickup trucks. “In 2015, exhaust from trucks and cars was responsible for more than 43 percent of Vermont’s emissions,” the article notes.

The Globe mentions that climate change concerns spurred “a wave of candidates who were swept into the Legislature this month on a mission to curb emissions” in this progressive New England state. While residents are being asked to make smart personal choices, Peter Walke, deputy secretary of the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources, admitted the state faced “major challenges” but was ready to act.

Vermont has tried to remain ahead of the curve —  setting greenhouse gas reduction goals back in 2005 is evidence of that. State electric utility Green Mountain Power was also installing Tesla Powerwalls last year. But we’ll see if the administration of Gov. Phil Scott — a Republican who commissioned a report which recommended “more than 50 measures to cut emissions” — will involve action in the form of some new green energy initiative or electric/hybrid car subsidies.

It can start by figuring out why a 500kW solar plant would overwhelm its utility lines:

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