The percentage of renewable electricity purchased by U.S. companies in the information and communication technology (ICT) sector is growing and will likely increase significantly by the start of the next decade, according to new analysis by the U.S. Department of Energy's National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL).
NREL's analysis discovered that 113 ICT companies are powering 14% of their electricity needs from renewable sources and that by 2020 that figure could increase to as much as 48%. The report includes case studies of renewable energy purchased by companies including Apple, Facebook, Google and other key industry players.
NREL used data from the 113 companies that report to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Green Power Partnership or the U.K.-based nonprofit Carbon Disclosure Project. According to the report, companies outside the scope of the 113 reporting companies could also begin purchasing renewables, which would contribute to larger renewable use by the ICT sector.
NREL's analysis of the ICT industry found the following:
- 113 ICT companies in the U.S. collectively consumed more than 59 GWh of electricity in 2014, which represents 1.5% of total U.S. electricity consumption;
- Of the total, 8.3 GWh came from renewable generation sources; and
- By 2020, the 113 companies may procure between 18.5 GWh and 37.0 GWh of renewable electricity.
‘Twenty leading ICT companies have renewable electricity goals,’ says John Miller, an NREL analyst, adding that goals range in size from 8% percent to 100%, with an average goal of approximately 64%.
Potential renewable energy procurement by the ICT sector may grow as financial incentives and corporate social responsibility goals encourage a larger share of ICT companies to purchase renewable electricity and could prompt companies already purchasing to increase their commitments, the report says.
‘The ICT sector is a big consumer of electricity in the U.S.,’ says Jenny Heeter, NREL's senior energy analyst. ‘ICT companies are increasingly making long-term commitments to renewable generation, such as through 20-year power purchase agreements.’
These commitments often support the development of new renewable energy generation near new data centers.
The report entitled ‘Renewable Electricity Use by the U.S. Information and Communication Technology Industry’ can be found here.