Onsite renewable electricity: why it’s a key part of a business’ climate strategy?

24 August 2021, 9:39 BST 0 min read

Solar panels

Why are businesses opting for onsite renewables?

Renewable electricity is cheaper than it's ever been. Over the past decade, there's been a big increase in its availability both through the grid and power purchase agreements - so why are businesses also opting for onsite renewable installations? Nearly 60% of RE100’s three hundred plus members are producing renewable electricity for their own consumption. And the overwhelming majority of those members are choosing to do this through solar.

Onsite solar is easily installed on rooftops or as ground-mounted panels on business property. Investing in solar installations creates a tangible asset for businesses to showcase their progressive sustainability strategy to stakeholders, customers, and the energy market. However, investing in onsite solar isn’t just a vanity project. It is a cost-efficient supply of electricity, makes use of un-used space and property, and creates opportunities to sell back electricity to the grid.  

"By 2030, three quarters of RE100 members should be running on 100% renewables. For many members, reaching 100% renewable electricity is one of several wider sustainability goals."

RE100 Annual Progress and Insights Report 2020

Mindspace India offices

Accelerating the transition to 100% clean power

Mindspace REIT owns and operates one of India’s largest real estate portfolios and is one of RE100’s first Indian real estate member. Currently they source about 10% of their electricity from renewables but they are ambitious, and through their RE100 target they aim to become a sustainability leader in India’s realty market.

Two of Mindspace’s business parks, consisting of 22 office buildings covering over 11 million square feet, are fitted with rooftop solar arrays. This not only meets their customers desire for sustainable practices but it reduces electricity costs and takes advantage of the large rooftop square footage at their disposal.

Since embarking on their renewable electricity journey, they have observed an emerging trend. New real estate projects are being designed with solar roofs in mind, by incorporating reinforced roofing and extra space for future introductions. For a forward-looking business, this is an exciting opportunity to increase their return on investment and make full use of their business properties.

PVH Corporation is the parent company for Tommy Hilfiger and Calvin Klein. They are also taking an ambitious approach to onsite renewables. Their Venlo Warehouse and Logistics Centre in the Netherlands hosts one of the world’s most powerful solar rooftops, fitted with over 48,000 solar panels. This location is “HollandseZen” certified which means the business can buy back excess electricity produced via its solar array from the grid, which then powers all of PVH Europe’s warehouses, offices and retail stores with 100% renewable electricity.

For PVH, achieving 100% renewable power at this warehouse doesn’t mean their job is done, though. They aim to procure 100% renewable electricity to power all their properties by 2030.

Mindspace and PVH have shown that incorporating clear and ambitious renewable electricity commitments into their business strategy drives action and accelerates the global transition to 100% renewable electricity.

“We have to build a future that is sustainable, and we won’t get there by consuming our way through it. Businesses have to play their role responsibly.”

Mr. Vinod Rohira, CEO at Mindspace

Solar plus habitat

Taking a holistic approach

Similarly, RE100 member Clif Bar, is already using 100% clean power with a mixture of RECs and on-site solar but with one key difference.

Clif Bar has installed a five-acre onsite solar array at its bakery in Twin Falls, Idaho that not only supplies the factory with 90% of its power at midday, but also supports pollinator habitats. Guided by their principle of creating a busines that “thinks like a tree”, Clif Bar planted native flowering plants underneath and between the solar panels, to support bees and other pollinating insect populations and subsequently nurturing the natural ecosystem in the wider area. This pioneering approach is seldom done commercially as many businesses opt to put gravel or turf under their panels, removing any opportunity for native plants to seed.

Not only does Clif Bar’s onsite solar array support local pollinator populations, but employees of the Twin Falls factory are able to charge their electric vehicles from the onsite source. In fact, Clif Bar provides an incentive of up to $6,500 to employees to buy an electric or fuel-efficient hybrid vehicle, of which 60% of employees have used. Clif Bar is also a member of Climate Group’s EV100 initiative, that brings together companies committed to switching their fleets to electric vehicles and installing charging infrastructure for employees and customers by 2030.

"As a sustainable, organic food company, we treat energy like an ingredient and that includes the energy that goes into making our food.  We’re also committed to helping build the climate movement among our employees, suppliers and the public." 

Elysa Hammond, senior vice president of environmental stewardship at Clif Bar

Person standing in front of solar panels

Looking to the future

All RE100 members are climate leaders that are making significant commitments to using 100% renewable electricity. When asked about their long-term strategy, 40% of RE100 members said they wanted to increase self-generation of renewable electricity, predominantly with onsite solar. What Mindspace, PVH Corporation and Clif Bar have shown is that through using onsite renewables they have been able to drive change from within.

Investing in onsite renewable sources creates opportunity for business to engage with its stakeholders, reduce its electricity bills and reach its sustainability targets. Ultimately this demonstrates to the global community that RE100 members know their responsibility in tackling climate change and aren’t afraid to make the investment where it’s needed.