Microsoft and Facebook unite to accelerate clean energy revolution

Tech giants Microsoft and Facebook have pledged to develop 60GW of renewable energy by 2025, along with companies including Unilever, Kellogg's and IKEA as part of the newly launched Renewable Energy Buyers Alliance (REBA).

REBA will be orchestrated by four non-governmental organisations – Business for Social Responsibility (BSR), the Rocky Mountain Institute, World Resources Institute (WRI) and the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) – which will aid more than 60 companies to transform US electricity systems through renewable energy.

“We need to develop more new sources of renewable energy, and we need to make it easier for companies of all kinds to use renewable energy,” Facebook’s director of sustainability Bill Weihl said.

“We know from our experience with initiatives like the Open Compute Project that openness and collaboration help everyone move faster, and we’re excited to work with the other founding members of REBA to help green the grid. Together we will all have a much greater impact.”

The 60GW target was introduced Thursday (12 May), and if completed would provide enough renewable capacity to replace all the coal-fired power plants in the US that are expected to be closed within the next four years.

REBA says it will work with the companies, including Google, GM and McDonalds, to implement this goal by helping them overcome hurdles faced when negotiating with utilities and regulators in efforts to reduce carbon emissions.

Currently, tech companies like Microsoft and Facebook – the latter of which has a 50% renewables target in place for 2018 – are consuming large amounts of energy and, in efforts to switch to renewables, have often had to implement Purchase Power Agreements with large utility companies.

“Much of the activity so far has been in the form of PPAs and that’s an efficient way to secure renewable energy, but it’s challenging for small companies,” Microsoft’s director of sustainability Brian Janous said. “We have a long way to go, and the only way we’re going to get there is collaboration. We need utilities to come in as aggregators and provide new opportunities.”

Team tech

The REBA coalition is another example of giants within the technology sector working together to build a sustainable future.

Last year, some of the world’s most powerful figures including Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg and Richard Branson launched the Breakthrough Energy Coalition aimed at creating affordable and reliable clean energy for the entire planet.

Earlier this year, Google, Apple, Amazon, and Microsoft formed the “Tech Amici” to support President Obama’s call to lower electricity sector emissions by 32% by 2030 as part of the Clean Power Plan.

Divestment rally

The REBA launch comes on the same day that Microsoft founder Bill Gates – who is searching for an energy miracle – sold off his personal charity’s entire $187m stake in oil giant BP, as part of the latest wave of high profile divestment cases.

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation’s decision follows on from pledges by Leonardo Di Caprio and a €865bn divestment from France and Germany to move finances away from the fossil fuel industry.

Matt Mace

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