Accessibility Links

The Growing Impact of ‘Big Business’ on the U.S. Renewable Energy Industry

Date: 05 August 2019

The future for renewable energy looks bright. The Solar Energy Industries Association’s (SEIA) seventh annual report that tracks businesses’ solar adoption ranks Apple as the biggest user, with 393.3 MW of capacity now in place. Apple was followed by other big brands from the retail sector, including Amazon, Target and Walmart. The SEIA reports that the U.S. commercial solar capacity has soared to more than 7,000 MW of installed solar capacity across 35,000 projects, which is a staggering increase from 2,500 MW and 7,000 projects in 2017.

Almost all major corporations have invested in a greener future with renewable energy sources. The RE100, which lists 189 businesses that have committed to sourcing energy from 100% renewable means, is just one initiative that champions the shift towards a carbon-neutral future.

Solar is not the only renewable technology being adopted by corporate giants. Walmart, Smithfield and Starbucks recently entered agreements to purchase wind power from the 300 MW Diamond Spring wind farm which will be built and run by ALLETE Clean Energy. Walmart has agreed to purchase 175 MW for 15 years, Smithfield will purchase 75 MW for 12 years, and Starbucks will purchase 50 MW for 15 years. Solar and wind energy.

The U.S. has seen a significant increase in the procurement of renewable power as corporate heavy hitters and industrial giants lock down low energy prices for the next 12 to 15 years. The economics make sense: it is cheaper to build new renewable energy infrastructure than to continue to run ageing coal plants. Renewable energy sources will help corporations achieve sustainability goals and go a long way to lowering greenhouse gas emissions. 

There are hundreds of examples of heavy hitters making long-term investments in renewables. The likes of Facebook, AT&T, ExxonMobil and General Motors have entered power purchase agreements (PPAs). 

Despite the uncertainty about the impact of federal tax reform legislation and import tariffs on solar panels, the renewable energy industry continues to flourish. The Business Renewables Centre reported a record number of U.S. wind and solar deals were made in 2018, setting a single-year record at 6.43 GW.  Big businesses are serious about fighting climate change and they are in for the long haul. 

The fact that renewable energy sources supplied more of the U.S.’s electricity than coal for the first time this spring is evidence renewables have gone mainstream, which means there will be an increasing number of stable, long-term career opportunities. 

“Often the hardest thing to find in the renewable industry is stability of employment. The term “solar-coaster” is no exaggeration of how unpredictable the market can be,” said Corinna Frye, Head of Renewable Energy & Clean Technology with LVI Associates. “However, with these additional forces growing the market, there are a number of companies that we are working with that have managed to cement themselves and find secure financial backing to really attack the distributed generation (DG) and commercial and industrial (C&I) markets.” 

The talent pool may be aware of the high-profile projects driven by “Big Business,” but they may not be aware of volume and scope of opportunities working on smaller scale non-utility projects. Skill sets that are in high demand from LVI Associates’ clients can be broken down into three key areas:
1) The front-end pipeline build out, including origination and both business and project development. 
2) Sourcing good technical specialists who can either help to engineer or support the construction of these projects. 
3) There is client demand for experienced professionals to manage these renewable assets operationally, contractually and financially.

Smaller players in the renewable energy market will be competing with C&I giants for top talent. “There is often a bias towards larger projects. It’s in these circumstances that my team can really make an impactful difference,” explained Frye. “We work tirelessly to get the message out about these alternative opportunities and the benefits to this growing market.” 

The Renewables team at LVI Associates looks to connect firms with their strong network of top talent that they have to offer. If are interested in learning more about how opportunities available within organizations focused on DG and C&I and facilitate introductions, please feel free to reach out to a LVI Associates consultant threw Contact.Us@lviassociates.com.

Looking for new opportunities?