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Transforming Business Leaders Into Clean Energy Experts

The Business Renewables Center Buyer’s Bootcamp

Guest author Richard Profit is a senior manager at PepsiCo Global Operations Sustainability.

Corporate buyers gathered in the heart of ski country in Aspen, Colorado, this past February for the second Buyer’s Bootcamp organized by the Business Renewables Center (BRC). The two-and-a half-day bootcamp was an intense course in how corporate buyers can procure off-site renewable energy, including the challenges, risks, and regulations that apply in this complex and growing space. The bootcamp was attended by 16 corporate officers from 14 individual corporations, and seven faculty made up of experienced buyers from Lockheed Martin, GM, Equinix, and Salesforce, along with expert deal advisors and service providers. The faculty composed of experienced buyers and the BRC team unpacked the complexity of power purchase agreements (PPAs), virtual PPAs (VPPAs), and the marketplace itself.

Attendees came from companies as diverse as PepsiCo to Amy’s Kitchen, HP Enterprise, and FedEx, all with an interest in discovering more about how they can use renewable energy procurement to meet their sustainability goals and targets. PepsiCo is working to reduce absolute greenhouse gas emissions across its value chain by at least 20 percent by 2030, and renewable energy forms an important aspect of the food and beverage company’s reduction strategy.

The bootcamp started by covering the basic functioning of the various parts of the U.S. electricity market, PPAs, VPPAs, and renewable power procurement processes before diving into the complexities of the best practices of power purchasing.

The introduction laid the foundation for more technical topics. These included managing and allocating risk in a PPA, preparing an RFP, and managing the buyer’s internal processes, a crucial step in which internal stakeholders are educated and engaged in what is usually a novel deal type before procurement really begins.

Faculty provided the fruits of their own experience of every aspect of renewable power purchasing, from strategy formation, to engaging internal stakeholders, to negotiating with developers and service providers. Their real-world takeaways and solutions provided perspective on the opportunities and challenges that accompany the alternatives a corporate buyer must choose among as it navigates to its first renewable PPA.

Conversations and insights covered a range of topics. There were arguments about whether mechanical and structural factors prevent gas prices from dropping further and impacting electricity prices. The movement of focus down the supply chain was also discussed, with many of the more experienced buyers talking of their plans to engage their suppliers to address their reduction efforts. This marks a shift away from consumer-proximate industries to the larger supply chain.

Despite the complexity of the corporate renewable space, interest is strong and growing; many of the attendees were actively considering what options might best fit their profiles. The huge variety of sectors and the potential for evolving positions and spaces may allow smaller buyers to procure renewables in the future. The bootcamp indicated that this market should remain vibrant, which is consistent with other signals. To date, BRC members have completed almost 7,000 megawatts of renewable energy deals, and with the strong interest in renewable procurement, this number is certain to keep growing.

Image courtesy of iStock.