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Starbucks drives innovation to overcome barriers to renewable power - News

21 April 2017, 0:00 UTC 3 min read

Global coffee company Starbucks has committed to a new long-term renewable electricity tariff in its home state of Washington, US, to ensure its local facilities are powered by renewable energy.

The new, cost-competitive ‘Green Direct’ tariff will see the construction of a new wind farm in Washington State to provide clean electricity to 116 Starbucks stores and the company’s roasting facility in Kent, Wash.

It is a direct result of collaboration between large energy users in the state like Starbucks and local utility Puget Sound Energy, through the Corporate Renewable Energy Buyers’ Principles, and sets an example to companies nationwide relying on a local utility to move forward on renewable energy.

Patrick Leonard, Manager, Energy & Resource Management, Starbucks, said: “Green Direct is a way Starbucks can select what type of energy we buy, rather than that being predetermined by the utility, so we can put the money we spend on electricity into renewable energy projects.”

“This is actually pouring clean, green energy into the same grid that these stores are connected to,” added Rebecca Zimmer, Starbucks’ Global Director of Environment. “This represents a direct investment that’s locally relevant and provides an innovative energy purchasing model we hope to see in other communities.”

In 2015, Starbucks joined RE100, a global initiative of influential businesses committed to 100% renewable power, led by The Climate Group in partnership with CDP. By the following year, the company was buying renewable electricity equivalent to 100% of its global operations.

Starbucks has since been taking the strategic approach of reducing its reliance on purchasing renewable electricity certificates, by diversifying its renewable electricity supply. This makes business sense; the new Green Direct tariff will provide protection against market volatility and is expected to generate cost savings based on analysis by Starbucks Treasury and Facilities departments.

In addition to the new tariff, Starbucks is announcing its first solar power investment, a 47 megawatt solar farm in North Carolina, which will generate enough renewable electricity to power 600 company stores. It reflects the company’s move away from energy-offset purchases only, in favor of direct engagement with the energy industry.

“The corporate sector is driving the conversation at the moment, which is a very interesting dynamic,” said Patrick Leonard. “We’re happy to partner with utilities to do this but we now also have options to engage with projects directly. For a company like Starbucks and some of the tech companies that use a lot of energy, to be able to source their needs in a positive way is a win-win. It’s also a way we can demonstrate our values.”

Sam Kimmins, Head of RE100, The Climate Group, praised the company for its leadership. “RE100 members like Starbucks are going beyond simply meeting a target,” he said, “they are re-writing the rulebook for energy purchasing.” 

He continued: “Starbucks is demonstrating the compelling business case for renewable electricity. Their dynamic, collaborative and innovative approach is setting an example to businesses and utilities across America, while showing millions of customers that Starbucks is serious about slowing climate change.”

Daniel T. Schwartz, Director of the University of Washington’s Clean Energy Institute, said a commitment to renewable energy by major companies like Starbucks will ultimately impact the cost of clean electricity across the board: “Everyone responsible for building a clean energy system – from the people that permit the project to the engineers and construction labor that builds it – learn from each project, so the more renewable energy generation facilities that get built in the US., the cheaper they get for everyone else to buy and use.”

Globally, equipment prices for solar photovoltaic technology fell by 80% between 2009 and 2015, while a recent REN21 report shows that renewable energy could be cheaper than all fossil fuels within the next 10 years.