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  • Using better energy, better: Climate Week NYC shows renewables and energy productivity go hand-in-hand

    General Motors and Bank of America, new members of RE100, shared their visions of a net-zero emissions economy at a special event run by The Climate Group during Climate Week NYC.

    The sell-out event, hosted by Baker & McKenzie, drew a diverse audience of corporates, policymakers, NGOs and the media.

    It showcased the companies’ new RE100 commitments to 100% renewable power, and examined how new, innovative and potentially disruptive technologies, business models, financing and policy can help to accelerate the clean energy transition.

    RE100 is led by The Climate Group in partnership with CDP. The Climate Group also showed how its new energy productivity campaign, EP100, is designed to work hand-in-hand with RE100, to help companies maximize the economic benefits of the energy they consume – and ensure what they do use for power, is renewable.

    According to various studies, adopting both approaches provides the least cost decarbonization pathway for businesses.

    Changing the narrative

    In her keynote speech, Rachel Kyte, CEO and Special Representative for the UN Secretary General for Sustainable Energy for All (SE4All), said corporate uptake of renewable energy has changed the narrative on climate change by demonstrating mainstream investment opportunities.

    But she added that a real transition to fair and sustainable energy for all would not happen if only 1% of corporates are leading the way: "If you're not a member of RE100, I question why not.”

    David Tulauskas, Director of Sustainability at General Motors said there were many business benefits in transitioning to 100% renewable power, including significant cost savings. He gave the example of a power purchasing agreement for renewable power in Texas, which is expected to save U.S.$2.8 million. He was also clear to point out that the pitch to the board was not about a 100% renewable strategy – it was about a solid business plan to save money.

    He then said that being part of RE100 allowed GM to work as part of a greater team, learning from other businesses that have set the same goals, and working together to scale efforts and impact.

    “That's what being part of RE100 is about”, he said, “by working together we're stronger, more influential and effective”.

    Technological, financing and policy solutions

    Following a discussion with John Gaylen, North America President of Danfoss, which this week joined EP100 with a goal to double its energy productivity, there was a wider discussion on how best to scale efforts and accelerate the transition to cleaner and smarter energy.

    Alex Liftman, Global Environment Executive at Bank of America, joined fellow panelists Anirban Ghosh, VP of Sustainability at Mahindra & Mahindra; Melanie Nakagawa, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Energy Transformation, US Department of State; and Greg Wetstone, President, American Council on Renewable Energy.

    The conversation began by recognizing the barriers to scaling renewables – in many cases due to lack of supportive policy and in some cases, conflicting policies.

    However, the good news far outweighed the constraints. There was recognition that the falling costs of renewables are making the technology impossible to ignore. And corporate commitments to renewables are providing a clear signal to the market that there are credible offtakers and this is helping to build confidence among investors.

    Alex Liftman referenced the growing number of financial products that Bank of America is developing to support growth of new renewable energy projects, and stressed that collaboration across government, businesses and investors was critical to get to the scale needed.

    The diplomatic role of the US Government was also praised in helping to push forward renewables in India and Mexico.

    Nigel Topping, CEO of We Mean Business, summarized the positive mood of the event by highlighting the incredible position we are now in because we can clearly demonstrate the business case for 100% renewable power.

    He acknowledged that there is still a lot more to be done – particularly in the energy intensive sectors - but as he pointed out, "all of our partners are committed to growing business leadership's voice so we can really accelerate climate action".

    Amy Davidsen, North America Executive Director, The Climate Group, reflected on Climate Week NYC 2016: “One of the key takeaways from this year’s Climate Week NYC is the clear pivot from talk to action in the way major businesses are approaching their energy use. It is hugely inspiring to see this leadership from US and global businesses continue, with further commitments to use 100% renewable energy across their operations, and others setting clear goals in doubling their energy productivity.”

    For more information on General Motors’ drive for 100% renewable power, read our exclusive interview with David Tulauskas, here.