Energy Phase Change:  In One Week – 3 Market Signals that the Clean Energy Transition has Arrived

“Those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future.”

John F. Kennedy

If further proof is needed that the global transition to clean energy is underway, one need only to look at the events reported in the last week.  A phase change is underway in how we generate, procure, and use energy – and the corporate and financial sectors are becoming the major change agents in the transition to a clean energy future.

Last week a coalition of businesses and non-profit organizations launched the Business Renewables Center (BRC) – a “collaborative platform aimed at accelerating corporate renewable energy procurement.” Businesses interested in sustainability, reducing greenhouse gas emissions and lowering energy costs by procuring more clean energy can tap the resources and expertise of the BRC and its affiliates.  In the words of Rob Threlkeld, manager of renewable energy at General Motors: “The collaborative effort of the BRC will make it easier for corporations to enter the renewables market. Instead of having hundreds of corporations reinvent the wheel, each member can get immediate access to the cumulative knowledge and wisdom of the industry. Each problem only needs to get solved once,”

General Motors is also a signatory to the Corporate Renewable Energy Buyers’ Principles: Increasing Access to Renewable Energy, a recent declaration by GM, Intel, Johnson & Johnson, Walmart and many other corporations, demanding access to more clean, fixed-price, renewable energy resources.

Last week, Think Progress reported that a coalition of international business leaders is calling for achieving net-zero greenhouse gas emissions globally by 2050.  The group includes Richard Branson, CEO of Virgin Airlines, Huffington Post Media Group President Arianna Huffington, U.N. Foundation CEO Kathy Calvin, and Unilever CEO Paul Polman.  The coalition seeks to galvanize support for reaching a comprehensive greenhouse gas reduction agreement in the United Nations Climate Change Conference to be held in Paris at the end of this year.

This is the latest in an accelerating trend of international business and political leaders urging action to address climate change.  Early this year, former U.S. Treasury Secretaries Henry Paulson, Robert Rubin and George Schultz, joined Michael Bloomberg and Senator Olympia Snowe, in issuing a report – Risky Business: The Economic Risks of Climate Change in the United States – outlining the “significant and diverse economic impact” of global warming.  The report is a “call on the American business community to rise to the challenge and lead the way in helping reduce climate risks.”

Finally, last week the largest investment fund in the world – Norway’s Government Pension Fund Global – worth $850 billion, reported that it has divested from 114 fossil fuel companies.  Momentum for fossil fuel divestment is growing as asset managers at pension funds and university and college endowments are under increased pressure to divest holdings in fossil fuel- based industries.   As of February 2014, fossil fuel divesture movements were active in 305 campuses, representing the fastest growing divestiture movement in history.

The business and financial communities are mobilizing on many fronts – demanding access to clean energy, establishing zero-carbon goals, and becoming increasingly vocal on the issue of climate change.  Demand for clean energy is accelerating. We can expect thousands of companies and organizations to join Google, Apple, Facebook, Yahoo, Amazon, Tesla, BMW, Whole Foods and the National Hockey league in setting zero-carbon energy goals and expressing clear preferences for clean energy resources.  If there really is a war on coal, it’s being waged by our largest, coolest and most admired corporations.

Few in business and industry are demanding greater access to fossil fuels.  High penetration renewable energy scenarios are being validated throughout the world.  Future trends in energy are clear.  The energy phase change is at hand.

Posted by Skip Pruss