The largest companies in the world are jumping into renewable energy big-time this year, and the proliferation of ambitious commitments all boil down to economics. As the Motley Fool just pointed out, “the dollars and cents make renewable energy a no-brainer.”
The Guardian reported this summer that renewable energy capacity worldwide was boosted by a record amount in 2016 and delivered at a significantly lower cost. Last year’s newly installed capacity of 161 gigawatts was up nearly 10% over 2015 and actually cost $242 billion — 23% less than in 2015, according to the REN21 Renewables Global Status Report.
The cost of wind and solar power went down last year, making the energy sources more competitive with fossil fuel generation than ever. In 2016, the average dollar capital expenditure per megawatt for solar photovoltaics and wind dropped by over 10%, UN Environment found. Winning bids for solar and wind auctions were also at an all-time low, the UN-backed research showed: $29.10 per megawatt hour in Chile for solar, and $30 per megawatt hour in Morocco for onshore wind.
That momentum hasn’t slowed in 2017. More than 100 of the world’s largest and most influential companies have already signed onto the RE100, making a commitment to achieve 100% renewable electricity by procuring renewable electricity sourced from generators and suppliers in the market, producing their own renewable electricity, or both. The growing list includes tech giants Facebook, Google, and Apple, retailers Ikea and H&M, automakers General Motors, Tata Motors, and BMW Group as well as beverage industry leaders Coca-Cola Enterprises and the Carlsberg Group.
Anheuser-Busch InBev, the biggest beer-maker in the world, joined RE100 last spring, announcing that the company planned to purchase all of its electricity from renewable sources by 2025. Last month, numerous American businesses signed onto the new America’s Pledge coalition, agreeing to adhere to the Paris climate accord, regardless of the US government’s stance.
The outlook on renewable energy remains bullish for the future. Bloomberg New Energy Finance predicted in June that by 2040, wind and solar will make up 48% of the world’s installed capacity and 34% of electricity generation, compared to 12% and 5% in 2017.