Our lives are becoming increasingly digitalised. Between music and video streaming, online shopping, internet research and scrolling through social media sites – the digital realm is now integral to everyday life. This means our data consumption is also on the rise – and with it the amount of power technology firms need to make our online lives a (virtual) reality. In 2022, US companies purchased more green electricity than ever before, and – according to the latest Clean Energy Powers American Business report published by the American Clean Power Association – the three biggest buyers are in tech: Amazon, Facebook parent Meta, and Google.
The study found that 48 percent of all clean power customers in corporate America were technology firms – and demand is only set to keep on growing. As a rule, US tech companies generally source their green energy using Power Purchase Agreements (PPAs). But it is not only the US tech industry that has reaped the benefits of long-term power supply contracts with utilities – the majority of all industrial buyers of clean power in the US, 80 percent in fact, do so through PPAs.
Tech is not alone in its increasing need for green energy. In fact, according to the report, all industries have upped their procurement of clean power, most notably over the last decade. Since 2012, US corporations have been increasing their wind and solar power purchases by 73 percent on average each year. It not only comes down to economic and environmental benefits, however. Increasing pressure on companies to achieve sustainability goals also plays a part, explains Jason C. Sandberg, interim executive officer and chief advocacy officer at the American Clean Power Association.
What’s more, over the last decade, the cost of generating solar and wind power has dropped by 71 percent and 47 percent, respectively, making purchases more attractive to corporate energy customers, says Sandberg. But American companies are not only benefiting from the affordability of clean energy. By buying more clean power they are also helping to make it more cost-effective. Growing demand for renewables is spurring the expansion of green power projects, while increased supply is driving down the price of green power.
In 2012, Amazon, Meta and Google began to specifically source solar and wind power. By September 2022 – i.e. over a period of ten years – Amazon had made US clean power purchases totalling 12.4 gigawatts (GW), with Meta and Google coming in at 8.7 GW and 6.2 GW, respectively.
With a share of nine percent (6.7 GW), the American energy industry is also one of the largest purchasers of green power in the US, second only to tech, followed by the telecommunications and food and beverage sectors. A total of 326 US companies had sourced more than 77 GW of wind and solar power by the end of 2022 – enough energy to run more than 1,000 data centres or supply electricity to 18 million American homes.
Overall, US companies sourced their clean power from 49 states, Washington DC and Puerto Rico. Texas provided over a third (35 percent) of purchased capacity – more than any other state. This is because 20 percent of all renewable projects for US corporate customers are marketed from that state.
Growing demand for renewables in corporate America, increased expansion of renewables, and the consequently falling price of green power are accelerating the energy transition in the United States. According to the report, green energy projects supported by American companies help prevent almost 47 million metric tons of carbon dioxide from being emitted and 25 billion gallons of water from being consumed in the USA every year.