Corporate buyers are expected to remain a source of demand for renewable electricity as companies install solar panels and sign power purchase agreements in order to meet sustainability goals, generate return on investment and limit exposure to changing energy prices, according to PwC.
A survey of 63 "major" U.S. corporations active in renewable energy markets found 72% of respondents are pursuing deals to buy more renewables, PwC said June 20, with the vast majority identifying solar as the "most important" renewable energy technology to their organization. Respondents included information, communication and technology companies, retail and consumer firms, manufacturers and financial services companies, among others.
"One of the biggest developments in the renewable energy marketplace in the last 12-24 months has been the rapid growth in corporate renewables purchases," PwC said in a report on the survey. "Their share of renewables is growing, their demands of providers are rising, and their approaches to energy procurement are becoming more sophisticated."
Onsite PPAs remain the most popular purchasing option. However, of those companies actively pursuing deals, 58% said they intend to sign more traditional offsite PPAs, with 30% planning to pursue virtual PPAs — long-term, fixed-price energy contracts in which electricity is sold into the market rather than used directly by the customer.
More than 90% of respondents said they will try to buy power directly from project developers, while half said they will try to work through a utility.
Last year, nonutility buyers accounted for more than half of all contracted wind power, up from 23% in 2014 and 5% in 2013, according to the American Wind Energy Association.
The top reasons companies gave for not pursuing renewable energy purchases were lack of corporate mandates, unattractive return on investment and contract durations.
Respondents to the PwC survey ranked advanced meters, energy management software and energy storage as the most important ancillary technologies for measuring and monitoring corporate energy use.