US firms are the most prolific buyers of clean energy. They maintained their lead last year, purchasing over half the record 37 gigawatts of power sold to corporations globally.
“The US has the companies that are most willing to buy renewable power and a market structure that best enables purchases,” said Kyle Harrison, BloombergNEF’s head of sustainability research. “That’s why it’s the number one country for corporate purchases of solar and wind.”
Technology giants Amazon, Facebook-owner Meta, Microsoft and Google are the world’s top buyers of clean power. Amazon is the runaway leader and the 25 gigawatts it has purchased to date almost equals the clean energy portfolio of a leading utility like NextEra Energy, which has about 30 gigawatts in active operation.
The matching of demand and supply that’s possible in the US evades other markets. “A corporation can’t sign a power purchase agreement in Vietnam, for instance. It’s only been allowed in Japan and South Korea recently,” said Harrison.
It’s not lower power bills that are driving corporate purchases of clean power in the US. “Sustainability is a big driver,” said Harrison. “US tech companies are often willing to sign deals even if they are losing money and can get cheaper power from the grid.”
With the increasing use of artificial intelligence, particularly as tools like ChatGPT take off, the power consumption of tech companies is growing by leaps and bounds. Most of these firms have ambitious net-zero goals, so they need to keep adding renewables to maintain or expand their share of the power consumption mix. Some are also working on maximizing clean electricity use each hour, which is far more impactful for the overall power system.
Amazon aims to be 100% powered by renewable energy by 2025 – five years ahead of its earlier target of 2030.
The US offers the option of a very flexible arrangement – a ‘virtual power purchase agreement’ where a company can lock in a price and also continue to be partly exposed to wholesale power prices, without involving the physical delivery of electricity to a site. This is the dominant option for securing clean power deals in the country.
Two of the top three clean power purchasers globally in 2023 were US companies, suggesting there is unlikely to be any trend change this year. Europe may come back slightly stronger as the lure of high spot power prices gives way to the attractiveness of firm, long-term power purchase agreements.
The top sellers of clean energy to corporations include AES, Engie, Acciona and EDP Renewables.