Renewable energy is becoming big business, and some companies are taking advantage.
Rivian CEO RJ Scaringe recently called out those he claims are not walking the walk, saying, “There’s far too much greenwashing in the system,” according to The Verge.
Scaringe took issue with organizations that buy renewable energy but don’t create new capacity for renewable energy. “[They] pay a teeny little incremental amount more to get the ability to pat ourselves on the back and say we’re using renewable energy,” he said.
Scaringe was touting Rivian’s 100-megawatt virtual power purchase agreement (VPPA) with a Kentucky solar farm built atop a former coal mine. The VPPA means Rivian has agreed to buy power from the solar farm once it’s operational, even though it won’t directly be using the clean energy.
Essentially, VPPAs help create a market for the energy before the project is complete, making it easier to get financing. Rivian’s CEO claims that VPPAs are vital for many of these renewable energy projects to get up and running, reported The Verge.
Rivian partnered with BrightNight and The Nature Conservancy on the $1 billion project at Starfire Mine, which was once one of the largest coal mines in the United States. The EV manufacturer stated that the site will have the capacity to power more than 170,000 homes per year.
“Significant investments in infrastructure will be critical to solving the climate crisis, but how we invest is just as important as how much we invest,” Jennifer Morris, CEO of The Nature Conservancy, said. “We need to ensure both people and the planet are central to these decisions, especially in communities like the Appalachians that have powered America for centuries and have tremendous natural resources.”
The solar industry in the U.S. had its best first quarter in history at the start of 2023, and the Solar Energy Industries Association expects the market to triple in size over the next five years.
But Scaringe wants more than just talk from his competitors.
“If companies aren’t making the commitment to purchase the power, which then makes the project financeable, these projects won’t happen,” he said.
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