A world powered by 100% renewable energy may well be possible, but we still have a long way to go.
A new announcement from the RE100 campaign, reported over at The Guardian, heralds further progress on this front. Nine more corporate giants are making a formal commitment to reach a goal of buying 100% renewable electricity. The full list is impressive indeed, and marks a huge amount of buying power that will now be shifting toward renewables:
Johnson & Johnson,
Procter & Gamble,
But let's not just focus on the kWh of electricity that this purchase represents. The fact is that clean energy commitments like these may be just as important both for the immediate political signals they send out to policy makers, and for the fact that they build a larger segment of the economy that is now deeply invested in pro-renewables (and, by definition, increasingly anti-fossil fuels) policy decisions.
From Apple, Facebook and Google telling North Carolina to keep its renewable energy mandates in place to business leaders coming out in vocal support of Obama's Clean Power Plan, as companies beef up their own sustainability commitments, they also appear willing to defend and demand policy that makes those commitments easier to achive. As a result, it's becoming increasingly hard to push the "pro-environment = anti-jobs" fallacies any longer, when you know you'll be up against the PR departments of some of the most successful businesses in the world.
On a related note, research published in Science recently suggests that while economy-wide carbon pricing may be the most efficient way to cut emissions from a policy standpoint, it's much easier to bring about such policies if you have first supported a clean energy industry that stands to benefit from it. In other words, while we TreeHuggers might all love to see a universal carbon price implemented tomorrow, we might be better off laying the ground work with support of specific industries and sectors of the economy that will later generate political will for more wholesale change.
Corporate commitments to 100% clean energy are a classic case in point. Not only will they mean an uptick in their own right (the Southeast is getting its first large-scale wind farm thanks to an Amazon commitment to buy energy from it), but they also create a sizable segment of the economy that has an interest in ensuring a consistent, stable and ambitious policy environment that moves us toward a clean energy future.