Amazon reveals plans for 26 new large-scale renewable energy projects

Pictured: The rooftop solar array at Amazon's Tilbury fulfillment centre

The e-commerce giant is notably striving to become a net-zero business by 2040 and is aiming to reach 100% renewable electricity for global operations by 2030. The deadline is more ambitious for the firm’s Web Services arm, which provides cloud computing services and has a 2025 deadline.

Amazon has not specified exactly where each of the projects will be but has said the new additions will all be utility-scale and will collectively represent more than 3.4GW of electricity production capacity. They will be located across the UK, US, Australia, France, Germany, Italy, South Africa and Sweden.

Once the facilities come online, Amazon claims, the company will become the world’s largest corporate purchaser of renewable energy. This accolade has previously been held by Facebook and, most recently, by Google’s parent firm Alphabet Inc.

Amazon has already invested in nine new renewable energy projects in 2020, including a 115MW wind farm in County Galway, Ireland, which it will use to power its new data centre there. The retailer’s total renewable energy portfolio and pipeline now totals 6.5GW. It is notably a member of the Renewable Energy Buyers Alliance (REBA).

“With a total of 127 solar and wind projects, Amazon is now the biggest corporate buyer of renewable energy ever,” Amazon founder and chief executive Jeff Bezos said.

“We are on a path to running 100% of our business on renewable energy by 2025—five years ahead of our original target of 2030… I couldn’t be prouder of all the teams across Amazon that continue to work hard, smart, and fast to get these projects up and running.”

A busy week for renewables

The announcement from Amazon comes in the same week that 13 large businesses joined its Climate Pledge – the private sector decarbonisation initiative the company co-leads with Global Optimism. In joining the Pledge, businesses pledge to reach net-zero by 2040 or sooner. New members include Microsoft, Unilever, ITV and Canary Wharf Group.

Elsewhere, McDonald’s USA completed new virtual power purchase agreements (VPPAs) for two major wind farms and a large portfolio of solar projects across three US states this week. When the business’ share of generation capacity from these three projects is added to its share of electricity from the other two projects it financed this year, the total is 1,130MW – enough to power 8,000 restaurants.

Starbucks has also made major new commitments to renewable energy. After pledging to halve emissions by 2030 earlier this year, the coffee giant revealed plans to install onsite solar at hundreds of its US stores across a 24-month period as part of a new Diversified Renewable Energy Portfolio. It will also sign a Virtual Power Purchase Agreement (VPPA) with a solar farm in Virginia that will come online in 2022.

Renewable PPAs made in the US last year totalled 16GW, up from 10GW in 2018, according to the RE-Source Platform. A similar analysis from Bloomberg NEF concluded that a 40% global year-on-year increase in corporate clean energy procurement was led by action in the US.

The corporate PPA market in Europe is notably less mature than in the US. As such, a coalition of more than 50 major businesses is calling on EU leaders to build the business sourcing of renewables into the bloc’s Covid-19 stimulus package, hailed globally as “green”. Backers include Mars, Nestle, H&M group and IKEA owner Ingka Group.

Sarah George

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