A lot of companies are cashing in on Earth Day this week and Walmart, like it or not, is no exception. Walmart, the world’s biggest retailer, is making progress on its pledge to become powered 100 percent by renewable energy by the end of the decade. Earlier this week Walmart released its global responsibility report following on the announcement last week that the company would increase its procurement or production of renewable energy to 7 billion kilowatt hours annually by 2020, while reducing its energy needs by 20 percent per square foot compared to its 2010 levels.
The announcement drew praise from Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) President Rhone Resch. “We applaud Walmart’s decision to ramp up construction of new clean energy projects nationwide, including an expanded use of solar,” he said. “The company’s decision to increase its clean energy projects by six-fold puts Walmart on a clear path to become 100 percent supplied by renewable energy by 2020.” In the Earth Day announcement Walmart said the procurement of 7 billion kilowatt hours of wind, solar and other renewable energy would be an increase of 600 percent of its renewable energy purchases in 2010, and the company has been moving forward on that promise. Already the company has installed solar at more than 200 locations in the U.S. “Last year alone, Walmart installed 100 rooftop solar installations in locations such as Arizona, California, and Ohio, as well a 1 megawatt utility-scale wind turbine at a distribution center in California,” the company stated in its global responsibility report.
The company also reported that renewable energy now provides 21 percent of its electricity globally—with about 4 percent coming from onsite generation and 17 percent from renewable energy projects on the grid. That’s a far cry from 2011, when it sourced only about 2 percent of its energy from renewable sources. At that time Grist contributor and Institute for Local Self-Reliance Senior Researcher for Banking and Independent Business Stacy Mitchell criticized media for following gushing over Walmart’s planned move to 100 percent renewable energy. “Rather than repeating Walmart’s stated goal of 100 percent renewable power, these news stories had instead reported that the company currently derives less than 2 percent of its electricity from its solar projects and wind-power purchases? That’s not a figure Walmart has published, and journalists have done little to bring it to light,” she wrote.
The company has since bolstered its renewable energy goals and said it now is signing long-term power purchase agreements (PPA) with renewable energy projects and in 2012 sourced 1.2 billion kilowatt hours of electricity from renewable energy.
Walmart isn’t making this transition just to look good. The company is always concerned with doing things as cheaply as possible. The long-term PPAs provides Walmart with long-term energy pricing stability. “When I look at the future, energy costs may grow as much as twice as fast as our anticipated store and club growth,” said Walmart CEO Mike Duke. “Finding cleaner and more affordable energy is important to our every day low cost business model and that makes it important to our customers’ pocketbooks. Our leadership in this area is something our customers can feel good about because the result is a cleaner environment. And savings we can pass on to them.”
Still, Walmart’s accomplishments in the renewable energy field are growing. The company now has 348 stores in Mexico, powered partly by Eléctrica del Valle de Mexico, a wind farm. There are also 350 Texan stores that derive up to 15 percent of their electricity from Duke Energy’s wind farm in Notrees, Texas. Walmart also installed 77 renewable energy projects in fiscal year 2012 and plans to nearly double that to 135 installations in fiscal year 2013.