On a beautiful barren stretch of the Scottish Highlands, just south of Inverness, spin 20 brand new 3,300-kilowatt wind turbines. The second these industrial-scale turbines came on stream last month, all Mars UK’s factories and offices became immediately zero carbon. The US confectionary giant negotiated with the UK arm of Eneco, the Dutch utility behind the Moy Wind Farm, to buy 85% of the turbines’ output over the next 10 years. The move follows similar steps in the US, where Mars says its operations are carbon neutral thanks to a deal to buy power from a large-scale wind farm in Mesquite Creek, Texas. The two deals – known generically as renewable power purchase agreements (PPAs) – represent a new trend in the drive by big business to go green. Adobe, BT Group, Goldman Sachs, Google, Microsoft, Nestle, Novo Nordisk, Salesforce, and Unilever are just a handful of the large corporations now using the mechanism to meet their ambitions of going fully renewable. The green credentials of PPAs appear relatively robust. Unlike carbon credits, where companies essentially pay to offset their ongoing use of dirty energy, renewable PPAs genuinely result in a switch to the clean stuff. Companies still buy from the conventional grid, but they receive green certificates that prove that the electricity they take from the grid equates to the zero-carbon energy put in by the likes of Eneco. So far RE100 has 65 signatories to the 100% renewable campaign, with more to be announced at the end of this month. But if PPAs offer such a winning formula, why aren’t more companies jumping on the bandwagon? Farnworth says it a case of raising awareness and overcoming historical misconceptions about the high cost of renewables. It’s not quite as straightforward as that, however. On the environment s ide, there are persistent question marks over double counting. How can consumers be sure that the clean power put into the grid isn’t being “used” by more than one buyer? There are now rules in place “which help clarify where energy comes from and therefore make it easier to claim carbon neutrality,” says Myles McCarthy, director of implementation at the London-based Carbon Trust, a low-carbon advisory group.
Guardian 20th June 2016 read more »