The businesses and cities putting energy at the heart of their Race to Zero

Renewables are on the rise, transforming the way we power our lives and paving the way for a net zero world that’s better for people, planet, and business. From sunlight to wind and water, these abundant and continuously replenished resources are driving a massive surge in clean energy adoption, crucial in our Race to Zero. By Climate Champions | July 3, 2024

Renewable energy is reshaping our energy landscape. In 2023 alone, global annual renewable capacity additions increased by almost 50% to nearly 510 gigawatts (GW), the fastest growth rate in the past two decades. Solar PV alone accounted for three-quarters of these additions.

The financial landscape is shifting too. In 2021, renewable energy investments dominated new power generation projects, accounting for an estimated 70% of the US$530 billion spent on new capacity. This trend signals a global commitment to transition away from fossil fuels.

As part of the Climate Champions’ 2030 Climate Solutions, we’ve set a target to double the rate of improvements of energy efficiency and triple renewable power generation capacity in line with the outcome of the Global Stocktake. Solar and wind power by 2030 must comprise at least 40%, and all renewables at least 60%, of global electricity generation by 2030.

Who’s leading the boom

Across the world, businesses and cities are putting energy at the forefront of their net zero strategies, seeing the adoption of renewable energy and energy efficiency measures as catalytic to reaching targets.

  • C40 Cities: Cities like Seattle, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and New York City have enacted bans on fossil gas in new buildings, setting powerful precedents for sustainable urban development. Collectively, these cities have divested over US$84 billion from fossil fuels, redirecting funds toward renewable energy and green job-creating climate solutions.
  • PepsiCo: By 2023, PepsiCo sourced approximately 80% of its global electricity needs from renewable sources, aiming for 100% renewable electricity across its operations by 2030. Innovations like rooftop solar panels at their Spanish facility and a renewable electricity system in the Netherlands demonstrate their commitment.
  • Johnson & Johnson Vision Care: Achieved 100% renewable electricity for their global manufacturing operations in 2022 through a mix of on-site solar and wind power, and off-site wind power from a direct power purchase agreement (PPA) in Ireland.
  • General Motors (GM): Powered 23 sites completely by renewable energy, including a 300-megawatt solar project in Michigan. Their energy efficiency efforts have resulted in a 27% reduction in global energy use against a 2013 baseline.
  • Apple: Mobilized its supply chain to adopt clean energy, resulting in 18 gigawatts of renewable energy powering its operations and manufacturing supply chain. This move has avoided over 18.5 million metric tons of carbon emissions, illustrating the significant impact that supply chain management can have on global emissions.
  • Enpro: Expanded its operations to include hydrogen, solar, and waste management, emphasizing emissions reduction through solar rooftop systems and energy-efficient machinery.
  • Aravind Eye Care: Integrated sustainable practices such as energy-efficient infrastructure, waste management, and renewable energy (solar and wind). Existing rooftop solar provided only 10% of the electricity needs, but a third-party supplier now provides about 60% of the facility’s total energy.
  • Ulkatcho First Nation’s Off-Grid Solar Farm: This 30-acre solar farm in Canada will provide 64% of the community’s electricity, reducing diesel use by more than a million liters annually.
  • Frog Bikes: A UK-based bicycle manufacturer, operates its factories with renewable energy. They have achieved a 25% cumulative reduction in emissions per bike since 2019, demonstrating that even smaller companies can make significant strides in sustainability. Read more here.
  • VMI: An Albert-certified carbon-neutral rental company, supplies digital cameras for film, TV, and advertising productions. They have been using 100% renewable energy for their London and Bristol buildings since 2017, showcasing how the creative industry can contribute to the energy transition. Read more here.
  • Microsoft: Signed the largest corporate clean-energy purchase agreement with Brookfield Asset Management’s green energy arm. They have also announced a significant deal with Stockholm Exergi for 3.33 million tons of permanent carbon removals through bioenergy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS).

The silent hero: Energy efficiency

While the spotlight often shines on renewable energy, energy efficiency plays an equally vital role in reducing emissions. Imagine changing a light bulb to an energy-saving LED, or switching boilers for more efficient, electric heating; it’s a simple act, yet it encapsulates the profound impact of energy efficiency. This often underappreciated tool has done more to meet the United States’ energy needs over the past four decades than oil, gas, and nuclear power combined.

Energy efficiency involves harnessing technology to reduce energy waste, ensuring that tasks like lighting, driving, or washing clothes use less energy. This approach has maintained U.S. energy use at levels similar to those 20 years ago, despite economic growth. Greater efficiency not only cuts carbon pollution but also reduces air and water pollution from coal- and gas-fired power plants.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Energy Star label, introduced in 1992, has become the gold standard for identifying energy-efficient appliances, buildings, and equipment. The program has reduced carbon pollution by 4 billion metric tons while saving $500 billion on household energy bills.

Energy efficiency also creates jobs. More than 2.1 million Americans were employed in energy efficiency as of 2022, driven by investments in the Inflation Reduction Act and other initiatives. Each dollar invested in renewables creates three times more jobs than in the fossil fuel industry, making energy efficiency a critical driver of employment and economic growth.

Who’s leading the charge?

  • AstraZeneca: Made energy efficiency a cornerstone of its decarbonization strategy since joining EP100 in 2020. The company aims to double its energy productivity by 2025 from a 2015 baseline, supported by a $175 million investment in energy efficiency projects. These efforts have already reduced energy consumption by 17.5% since 2015, with initiatives like the chilled water optimization project at their Delaware plant, which saw a 6% reduction in energy use between 2022 and 2023.
  • GM: Spends about $20 million annually on energy efficiency and power demand projects, retrofitting lights to LED, upgrading HVAC systems, and deploying new technology solutions to optimize energy use, resulting in a 27% reduction in global energy use from 2013 levels.
  • Danfoss: Achieved its goal of doubling energy productivity eight years ahead of schedule, a target set for 2030 from a 2007 baseline.
  • Johnson Controls: Reduced emissions by 42% since 2017 and continues to lead in energy efficiency through its OpenBlue Net Zero Buildings initiative, helping customers reduce energy use and emissions.
  • JSW Cement and Mahindra Heavy Engines: Reached their targets ahead of schedule, doubling energy productivity years before their deadlines.
  • MVR Technology at Glentauchers Distillery: Halved emissions and energy usage at the distillery through energy efficiency measures. Read more here.

The Race is on

Energy efficiency not only reduces emissions but also lowers electric bills. Additionally, energy efficiency improves lives by reducing health issues associated with air pollution from the burning of fossil fuels. For instance, cutting nationwide energy consumption by 15% for one year through efficiency measures could save six American lives a day and avoid up to $20 billion in health-related problems.

Prices for renewable energy technologies are dropping rapidly, making renewables-based electricity the cheapest power option in most regions. The cost of electricity from solar power fell by 85% between 2010 and 2020, while the costs of onshore and offshore wind energy fell by 56% and 48%, respectively. However, investments in renewable energy need to triple by 2050, and the supply of electricity from clean energy sources must double within the next eight years to achieve net zero emissions.

Driven by the combined efforts of cities, corporations, and communities, the Race to Zero is gaining momentum. As more entities commit to these practices, the path to a net zero world becomes clearer and more attainable. The successes of companies like Yellow Door Energy, PepsiCo, Johnson & Johnson Vision Care, GM, Apple, Enpro, Aravind Eye Care, and others show what is possible, inspiring further action across all sectors of society. The transition towards renewable energy not only mitigates climate change but also offers substantial economic benefits, including job creation and cost savings. The journey to a net zero future is challenging but achievable, with collective action and commitment to renewable energy and energy efficiency leading the way.

Join the Race to Zero and support renewable energy and energy efficiency initiatives to create a fairer, healthier world for all. 


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