RE100 is “a very powerful demonstrator” of the value of innovation in accelerating the necessary, global growth of renewable energy, says Adnan Amin, Director-General, International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), in an exclusive Climate TV interview at IRENA’s Innovation Week in Bonn, Germany.
Leaders from industry and policy makers convened at the event to discuss innovative solutions to accelerate the transition to a low carbon economy and spur ‘the age of renewable power’ through innovation.
“I think the days where the big state actors alone could make a difference are over,” underlines Adnan Amin. He highlights the important role that businesses are playing in driving the low carbon economy, where “it’s wonderful to see […] groupings like RE100 coming up, where prestigious big international businesses are demonstrating their commitment to renewable energy also based on the business case for renewables.”
RE100 is “a very powerful demonstrator” of the economic benefits of going 100% renewable, he states. The program “started with IKEA, but includes Google” and other big companies, and “includes entities that have huge servers, with large energy requirements,” – and yet they are “committing to 100% renewables. That’s really a driver for investment and decarbonization. So, I think these are all to be encouraged very much.”
LEADING BY EXAMPLE
IKEA was one of the founding partners of RE100, and has a target to produce as much renewable energy as it consumes by 2020. The furniture retailer has invested more than US$1.5 billion since 2009 and has pledged a further $1.13 billion for climate-related action over the next ten years.
As part of its strategy to be ‘People and Planet positive’, IKEA is providing innovative solutions for its customers to live sustainably, including becoming the first retailer in the UK to only stock LED bulbs and selling solar panels at several stores.
Focusing on innovation, IKEA is also developing the kitchen of the future, where new design and technologies come together to save energy and increase consumers’ awareness of their carbon footprint. Presented in a contribution for The Climate Group’s program Home 2025, the concept uses induction cooling, smart tables and can reduce water use by up to 40%.
Other RE100 companies are using the sheer size of their operations to drive renewables, such as Google. The company joined the campaign in December last year, and is the largest corporate purchaser of renewable energy in the world. It has an interim target to triple its purchase of renewable energy by 2025.
BIG COMPANIES PAVING THE WAY
“The cliché is that industry can’t do anything because they need cheap energy and you should just leave it to the market,” says Dolf Gielen, Head of Innovation, IRENA, also speaking to Climate TV. “But industry is also the largest consumer of energy, and therefore it has a great opportunity to influence how the sector develops. And in that sense RE100 is really key.”
By demonstrating the strong business case for switching to renewables, companies joining RE100 played a crucial role in the climate negotiations that led to the Paris Agreement last December – while speaking to the market with one voice.
A central characteristic of RE100 program is that is composed of “the companies that everybody knows, the big companies,” continues Dolf Gielen, “showing that it is possible to move to 100% renewables, and that has of course a great function as an example for all the others. If these companies can do it, then why not everyone?”
Committing to and working toward their 100% targets, the collective voice of RE100 companies shows governments and utilities that there is an ever-growing demand for renewables. However, to be really innovative and be among the firsts to grasp the opportunities arising from the transition to renewables, businesses must plan their investments well in advance.
“RE100 is an incredibly important initiative,” says Elizabeth Press, Director of Planning and Programme Support, IRENA, in a Climate TV interview. “They are creating demand, so the market is growing and getting bigger. By making renewable energy the energy of choice, you’re sending a strong message that you can grow your business sustainably and effectively through renewable energy.”
Elizabeth Press also underlines the role that big companies, well known by consumers, can play in shaping the sustainable market of the future and ultimately the transition to a low carbon economy. “What I find very interesting is that many of the companies that are part of RE100 are actually household names,” she says, people know them.”
“Having these companies choosing renewables is a very important educational tool that is going out to public at large, that is helping all of us to pursue sustainability and energy choices.”
An example of the innovation set by the educational role emphasized by Elizabeth Press is BT Group, which launched its global campaign ‘100% Sport’ to inspire sports fans to switch to 100% renewable power.
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