Big Businesses Pledge To Ditch Climate-Harming Electricity | KUOW News and Information

Big Businesses Pledge To Ditch Climate-Harming Electricity

Dec 15, 2015

Microsoft and Starbucks have joined other global businesses in going beyond the Paris climate deal by pledging to use only climate-friendly electricity.

But other well-known names among Washington state’s biggest companies haven’t signed on.

More than 50 of the world's largest corporations joined the "RE100" pledge to get all of their electricity from renewable sources like wind and solar.

"We have some pretty big, influential companies on board," RE100 campaigner Emily Farnworth with The Climate Group in London said. "We can decarbonize the power sector very, very quickly."

Besides Microsoft and Starbucks, companies promising to kick the carbon habit include household names like Apple, BMW, Google, Nestle, Nike and Walmart.

Some have pledged to stop using coal or other carbon-spewing sources of electricity within the next five years. Others left their commitments open-ended.

Starbucks officials pledged to use only green power, but they did not announce how soon the company would stop using dirty electricity; they did not respond to KUOW's interview requests.

Farnworth said Starbucks is highly motivated to fight climate change, since coffee farms are especially sensitive to changing temperatures. She said Seattle-based Starbucks is making rapid progress toward its goal of using only renewable electricity.

Most Washington state companies on the Fortune 500 have not promised to flip the switch to renewable energy.

"Based on the data we have right now, they're over half of the way to their 100 percent commitment," she said.

Redmond-based Microsoft is a bit ahead of the pack. "The company is actually 100 percent renewable today, and we have been for the last few years," Microsoft environmental strategist Rob Bernard, who just returned from Paris, said.

Bernard based that claim both on Microsoft's renewable power purchases and its purchase of renewable energy credits and carbon offsets that aim to counteract what carbon emissions the company does cause.

He said he was excited to see so many other major companies at the Paris talks start to address their global impacts.

Most of the Washington state companies on the Fortune 500 have not promised to flip the switch to renewable energy.

Costco's goal is for its emissions to grow more slowly than the company does.

Costco, the largest company based in Washington state, puts out about 1.7 million tons of carbon dioxide a year, according to its latest sustainability report, mostly from electricity it purchases. Costco spokesperson PJ Faria declined KUOW's interview request.

So did Amazon.com spokesperson Sam Kennedy. Amazon.com documents say the online retailer and cloud-computing provider is on track to meet its goal of getting 40 percent of its electricity worldwide from renewable sources by the end of 2016.

Amazon says its data centers will go 100 percent renewable at some undetermined date in the future. 

While the private sector consumes nearly half of the world's electricity, the 53 companies that have signed the RE100 pledge are responsible for only about 0.4 percent of global electricity demand. RE100 organizers say if all businesses turned to renewable power, it could eliminate a tenth or more of the world's carbon dioxide emissions.

Photo: "Big Hanaford" by Kid Clutch on Flickr (CC BY 2.0