The number of large corporations seeking out renewables continues to grow in 2017.
In the wake of America's exit from the Paris climate agreement, companies are signing up to the “We Are Still In” campaign in droves. Some, like Lego, are meeting renewables targets years ahead of schedule as prices for wind and solar continue to decline.
Earlier this year, Anheuser-Busch InBev announced it would purchase 100 percent of its electricity from renewable resources by 2025 for approximately 6 terawatt-hours of annual usage across the globe. The proclamation alone isn’t even that noteworthy anymore — lots of global brands have signed on to commitments for 100 percent renewables.
But just a few months after the announcement was made, AB InBev’s chief sustainability and procurement officer, Tony Milikin, said he’s sure he can beat his own target. “We’re building our company for the long haul,” Milikin said at the DS Virgin Racing Innovation Summit in Brooklyn earlier this month.
Unlike an Apple or Ikea, which were early adopters of aggressive renewable procurement targets, AB InBev is starting from scratch. The global brewing conglomerate, which owns more than 400 beer brands, only gets about 7 percent of its electricity from renewables today. But Milikin said he expects to meet the 100 percent goal well ahead of 2025.
The ability for corporations to procure renewables at speed is increasing. Cheaper prices make it worthwhile, and companies are growing more comfortable with different iterations of power purchase agreements and on-site renewable options. AB InBev expects 75 to 85 percent to come through PPAs and the rest to come from on-site generation, primarily solar.
The first step in the project began in Mexico in March. AB InBev worked with Iberdrola on a PPA for nearly 500 gigawatt-hours per year of wind power to cover its beer production for the Grupo Modelo. The 15-year PPA will come from a 220-megwatt wind farm in Puebla that will begin operation in 2019. Milikin said it is the largest corporate purchase of renewables in Mexico to date.
The company is also working on PPAs in Argentina, Brazil and the U.S.
Milikin said InBev has the resources to tackle most procurement in-house. “We have an army,” he said of his team. “We have a really good foundation,” adding that extensive benchmarking was happening across the company’s worldwide operations.
Milikin also said he's talking to a lot of other large companies about their sustainability and renewable projects, suggesting that knowledge sharing is accelerating between companies that are looking to get more sophisticated about procuring clean energy.
For AB InBev, purchasing renewable power is probably the easy part of expanding its sustainability efforts. The global beer giant has nearly halved the amount of water needed to make a liter of beer in the past eight years, added Milikin, and 99 percent of its waste is repurposed or recycled.
But the company also drives a lot. AB InBev trucks log more than one billion miles around the world every year, said Milikin, which has pushed the company to think of every transportation alternative. “Beer trains, beer boats, autonomous trucks, electric, hydrogen, these are all things we’re investing in,” he said. The company has a fleet of about 700 natural gas trucks.
Milikin would not say whether the company will move away from petroleum as quickly as it is moving toward renewables. But given the range of emerging alternatives, Milikin said he's hopeful about the company's path: “It’s a beautiful place to be right now.”