McDonald’s to finance three major new renewable energy projects in the US

Fossil-fired generation is expected to decline by 0.6% in 2023 and 1.2% in 2024

The three new projects will be constructed across Illinois, Oklahoma, North Carolina and Ohio, after the developers secured backing from McDonald’s and other businesses. McDonald’s’ share of the projects will reduce the business’ annual Scope 2 (power-related) emissions by more than 2.5 million metric tonnes.

McDonald’s USA had notably already signed two VPPAs in 2019 – one for a wind farm and one for a solar farm, both in Texas. When the business’ share of generation capacity from these two projects is added to the share of generation capacity from the three new arrays, the total is 1,130MW – enough to power 8,000 restaurants.

Once all five projects come online over the next three years, McDonald’s USA estimates that the resulting emissions reductions will take it halfway to its climate action target for restaurants and offices. It is striving to reduce absolute emissions from this part of the business by 36% by 2030, against a 2015 baseline.

Beyond the climate benefit of the new VPPAs, the company claims that the three new projects will collectively create 3,400 short-term jobs and 135 long-term roles.

“The Covid-19 pandemic has intensified our focus on strengthening the resilience of our communities and the planet,” McDonald’s USA’s vice president for sustainability, Jenny McCulloch, said.

“As one of the world’s largest restaurant companies, we have a unique opportunity to strengthen climate resiliency with our network of franchisees and supplier partners.”

Going stateside

Despite the Trump administration’s withdrawal from the Paris Agreement and continued focus on fossil fuels over renewables, US-based corporates are world-leaders when it comes to clean energy procurement.

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.

McDonald’s USA has been one of the nation’s top renewable energy purchasers since 2008. Other major players include Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Target and PepsiCo. Many of these businesses are members of ‘We Are Still In’ – a campaign unifying corporates, states and cities in continued commitment to the Paris Agreement, regardless of the federal approach.

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 GGroup and IKEA owner Ingka Group.

Sarah George

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