A few months ago, I checked in on Amazon’s two-year progress towards its Climate Pledge. Co-founded with environmental advocacy organization Global Optimism, the Climate Pledge is Amazon’s commitment to reach net-zero carbon by 2040 (a full ten years before the goals set by the Paris Climate accords), bringing as many companies along with it as it can. We learned that 86 new businesses had joined the effort, including corporate heavyweights like Proctor & Gamble, ASOS, HP Inc., Nespresso and Salesforce, pushing the global revenue of the project’s signatories past the $1.8 trillion mark.
In addition to regularly measuring and reporting greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and investing in carbon offsets, the signers of the Climate Pledge commit to adopting decarbonization strategies within their operations. There are multiple ways to go about this, ranging from materials reductions to improving operational energy efficiency, but one particularly crucial element is investing in renewables.
In this area, Amazon is truly putting its money where its mouth is and leading by example. This week, the company shared several updates to its push for renewables. These include 18 new wind and solar projects and the news that it is on target to power 100% of its operations with renewable energy by 2025—a full five years ahead of its previous commitment to do so by 2030. Furthermore, we learned that with these new projects on the books, Amazon is officially the largest corporate buyer of renewable energy globally. Let’s take a closer look at what’s new with Amazon’s monumental renewable energy push.
New projects, near and far
Here at home, we learned Amazon had added eight new renewable energy projects in the U.S., totaling over one gigawatt (GW) of utility-scale energy. These include the company’s first solar projects in Georgia and Arizona and other efforts in Texas, Ohio and Virginia. The company made special note of the one based in Arizona, which marks the company’s second solar project paired with energy storage. By pairing a 300-megawatt (MW) solar project with a 150-MW battery energy storage system, the company says it will be able to “align solar generation with periods of the greatest demand,” even at times when the sun is not shining. All said and told, Amazon claims this project brings its renewable energy battery storage capacity up to 220 MW.
Across the pond, Amazon shared that it has added four new projects in Finland, whose 158 MW of renewable energy brings Amazon’s total Nordic capacity to 950 MW. Amazon’s third solar project in Italy adds 40 MW to its previous 66 MW. A new wind project in Northern Ireland brings its total up to 245 MW and increases Amazon’s total UK wind energy portfolio to over 545 MW. Lastly, Amazon says its four new solar projects in Spain will contribute over 630 MW to the grid. These new additions bring Amazon’s total European portfolio up to 34 projects producing 3.5 GW of renewable energy—securing the company’s crown as the largest procurer of renewables in Europe.
On the macro level, Amazon says these 18 new projects and their 5.6 GW of renewable energy will bring the company’s total global portfolio up to 274 projects, capable of generating 12 GW (or 33,700-gigawatt hours) once operations are fully humming. For context, this is equivalent to the energy necessary to power over three million U.S. homes for an entire year. As mentioned earlier, these new projects put the company on track to power 100% of its operations by 2025, five years sooner than previously anticipated.
I often think of a quote from the first Toby Maguire Spiderman movie when I think about Amazon and its sustainability efforts: “with great power comes great responsibility.” Amazon has proven itself more of a lifeline than ever over the last two years, delivering the goods we need (and, let’s face it, plenty that we just want) quickly to our doorstep throughout the Covid pandemic. With the company’s growth, however, comes an expanded carbon footprint. Amazon takes this matter seriously, and in my opinion, and we should applaud it for its efforts to balance out the negative impacts of its growth on the planet. While there are arguments to be made that Amazon has grown too big and influential, I would counter that by saying only a company of Amazon’s stature has the gravity to pull industry at large along with it on environmental initiatives such as the Climate Pledge. I’ll continue to watch these efforts with interest.