Energy Customers in the Clean Tech Market

In wind and solar markets, energy customers have demonstrated how demand can stimulate the deployment of clean energy technologies. To achieve CEBA’s vision of a 90% carbon free US electricity system by 2030, new and pre-commercial technologies are required. Innovation, as well as deployment, is critical. As such, energy customers are well positioned to apply the same demand power that deployed gigawatts of wind and solar to support the development of new technologies beyond traditional renewables through investment and procurement.

Many companies already support emerging clean tech by acting as both investors in and customers of early-stage technology, while others are still unfamiliar with the clean tech ecosystem or unsure how to participate. Breaking down these barriers can help unlock corporate support for clean tech innovation. 

Support as an Investor

Many energy customers have venture capital funds dedicated to identifying and investing in start-ups with strategically relevant products and services. As interest in clean tech surges, energy customers are using venture capital investments to secure a stake in emerging solutions, which can help address their own carbon footprint and provide a sustainable competitive edge.

In 2021, corporate venture funds invested $23 billion in a broad array of climate technologies, more than double the amount of investment in 2020.  This is good news for start-ups lacking market traction, as venture capital is often a critical early-stage source of funding. 

Support as a Customer

Support for first-time customers can be a game changer for early-stage start-ups. Long-term offtake agreements, letters of intent, and purchasing contracts provide start-ups with revenue certainty, leverage in capital raises, technology de-risking, and a successful transaction model that can be replicated. Companies also indirectly catalyze clean tech innovation through public climate commitments, which are moving service providers to innovate product offerings to meet the evolving needs of their climate-oriented corporate customers.

Often occurring in tandem with a customer or investor relationship, energy customers can also collaborate with start-ups as business partners to enhance or scale a specific clean tech project, product, or service. 

Learn more

Energy customers can work together to remove barriers to deploying corporate capital through pre-competitive knowledge sharing that illuminates key factors for success.

The CEBA Building the Business Case for Deploying Clean Energy Technologies Primer provides key insights and lessons learned from recent clean tech and energy customer partnerships, exclusive for CEBA members. 

Not a CEBA member but want to learn more? Check out our member options here. Want to share your clean tech success story with us? Please reach out to innovation@cebuyers.org.

Energy Customers, Solution Providers, and Stakeholders Assess the Role of Avoided Emissions in Decision-Making and Greenhouse Gas Accounting

The Clean Energy Buyers Institute’s NextGen Activator Workshop series is defining the necessary updates to the current system of energy attribute certificates, data, leadership recognition programs, and greenhouse gas accounting to enable an expansion of the suite of carbon-free procurement options available to customers to achieve their clean energy goals and better optimize their decarbonization impact.

A growing group of energy customers want their carbon-free electricity (CFE) procurement to have systemic impacts by sending market signals for investments that accelerate grid decarbonization in places and times where action is most needed. 

Customers are seeking clearer guidance on the use of avoided emissions impacts to drive their CFE procurement decisions and greenhouse gas accounting and reporting. The lack of clarity on how to assess, use for decision-making, and report avoided emissions presents a key barrier to four of the top eight customer-identified objectives for next generation CFE procurement, such as scenarios where a customer wants to procure CFE from the most carbon-intensive locations or times of day in order to optimize emission reductions.

Energy customers, solution providers, and stakeholders assembled at CEBA Connect Spring Summit 2022 on May 18th, 2022, in Detroit, Michigan for the third workshop in CEBI’s NextGen Activator series to evaluate the role of avoided emissions in CFE procurement decision-making and greenhouse gas accounting. This workshop generated insights to the following three critical questions: 

Question #1: What is the role of avoided emissions (i.e., the change in emissions caused by decisions or interventions) in decision-making? 

Insight #1: Customers want the ability to make comparisons of consequential, carbon-based impacts of CFE procurement options for more informed decisions.

Avoided emissions may serve an important role in decision-making as a new criterion that empowers customers to use a common denominator of decarbonization impact in prioritizing investment decisions across diverse CFE procurement options. These comparisons may result in customers making different CFE procurement decisions than they otherwise would have made. 

For example, the use of avoided emissions as this common denominator may compel a customer to procure CFE in a location or at a time of day where they do not have load because it can deliver greater avoided emissions based on the carbon intensity of the grid in that location or at that time. Similarly, this may compel a customer to take more action to decarbonize their value chain (in line with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s new guidance for buying CFE on behalf of others) or over-procure CFE in certain geographic regions to cover load in other regions with limited or no CFE options. How to capture and report on these impacts is detailed in Question/Insight #3 below.

Question #2: What are the data and methodology bottlenecks to using avoided emissions? 

Insight #2: Access to transparent hourly consumption data and generation data as well as standardized methodologies are needed.

To evaluate avoided emissions, like energy efficiency estimates, customers need access to hourly consumption and generation data and a standardized methodology for the counterfactual (i.e., the baseline for comparison). Although data exists, the level and quality of data needed is not easily or transparently available to customers and the persistent challenge with accessing granular data complicates the ease and accuracy of customers’ measurements of avoided emissions for greenhouse gas accounting and reporting purposes. As these data (or at least modeled estimates in the interim) become available, customers are asking for clearer guidance from market system stakeholders about how to determine the counterfactual for calculating the avoided emissions and how to report avoided emissions in greenhouse gas accounting and reporting. 

By gaining access to better data and clarifying how to use that data to measure avoided emissions, it will become easier to create market incentives and recognize customer leadership. For example, access to granular data will make it easier for customers to evaluate the decarbonization impact of charging or discharging a battery at a certain time of day, which then may cause demand for new categories in existing leadership recognition programs, or an entirely new customer leadership recognition program focused on maximizing avoided emissions. 

Question 3: Can a company include avoided emissions directly in its corporate inventory for greenhouse gas accounting and, if so, what are the implications for reporting emissions? 

Insight #3: Capturing the avoided emissions impact of actions is important, but there is a lack of consensus on how and where they should be accounted for and reported. 

Traditionally, avoided emissions and carbon offsets have been treated similarly by reporting them as supplemental information, but not directly part of corporate greenhouse gas inventory accounting. Currently, a growing group of energy customers and solution providers believe positive decarbonization impacts on the grid from clean energy procurement targeting dirtier grids results in a more granular type of avoided emission that should be calculated and reported differently than a conventional offset. 

While discussions will continue if and how it is possible to incorporate avoided emissions directly in a corporate inventory, three options surfaced for incorporating avoided emissions into greenhouse gas reporting for stakeholders, each of which CEBI will explore further with its NextGen Activator community: 

  1. Report avoided emissions as supplemental information only, with the requirement to disclose following standardized methodologies (this is closest to the status quo since it is currently optional to disclose avoided emissions).
  2. In addition to location-based and market-based figures, companies optionally report a new third avoided emissions value under Scope 2 (which would need to follow standardized methodologies and calculations).
  3. Report avoided emissions outside the Corporate Standard but following an additional method under the GHG Protocol (akin to the project-based standard).

While the discussion continues about a sound recommendation on how to treat avoided emissions, there is common ground among participants: while energy customers can and should value avoided emissions and can elect to use this metric alongside other impact metrics for their CFE procurement, any updates to accounting and reporting methodologies should not eliminate existing CFE procurement options or disrupt existing transactions. In other words, a solution for avoided emissions that undermines global momentum and growth in voluntary CFE markets must be avoided. Adoption of avoided emissions as a decision-making criterion and metric for greenhouse gas accounting and reporting depends on parallel evolutions in the voluntary market system (i.e., as discussed above, the attributes and underlying data carried by energy attribute certificates, plus standardized methodologies and calculations for avoided emissions). 

Additionally, customers and solution providers also emphasized the importance of market instruments (i.e., energy attribute certificates) for voluntary market integrity and growth. Any solution for the treatment of avoided emissions should not undermine the availability of market instruments because these instruments are the linchpin of procurement and procurement verification in voluntary CFE markets. Instead, any solution should focus on adding attributes to capture in energy attribute certificates to reflect carbon and/or clarifying how to differentiate across procurement options and capture any associated avoided emissions in greenhouse gas reporting.

CEBI will continue the NextGen Activator workshop series over the coming months to develop comprehensive guidance on implementation pathways for the updates needed to evolve the current system of underpinning voluntary CFE markets: 

This guidance will sow the seeds for activating a broader suite of CFE procurement options that advance systemic investments in decarbonizing the electric grid. Stay tuned for information on dates and registration in the CEBI and CEBA newsletters. Subscribe to receive updates.

Energy Customers and Solution Providers Identify Key Market Updates to Enable Next Generation Procurement Options

The Clean Energy Buyers Institute’s NextGen Activator Workshop series identifies energy market gaps and changes necessary to help energy customers advance toward and optimize the decarbonization impact of their clean energy procurement.

Energy customers and solution providers have clarified the key updates required for evolving the current system underlying the voluntary carbon-free electricity (CFE) procurement market. These updates, if addressed, will advance the introduction of new procurement options to help customers optimize the decarbonization impact of their procurement decisions. During the second workshop in the NextGen Activator workshop series, convened by the Clean Energy Buyers Institute (CEBI), more than 70 energy customers and solution providers offered input on the changes necessary to the current system of energy attributes, data, greenhouse gas accounting frameworks, and leadership recognition programs to introduce solutions that help customers achieve the top eight objectives for next generation CFE procurement. 

Table 1 summarizes the overall types of market updates needed to support new types of voluntary CFE procurement options so customers can maximize the decarbonization impact of their procurement decisions. There are four key areas of opportunity to update to the current voluntary market system to unlock new CFE procurement options:

Table 1: Key CFE Market Updates Needed to Enable Customer-Identified Next Generation Procurement Options 

Let’s dive into three specific examples to further illustrate how and why these market system updates will enable new types of procurement options: 

In the coming months, CEBI will continue to unpack the detailed requirements for each of these market system updates and clarify the specific parties best positioned to implement these updates. CEBI will also further characterize customer needs for next generation procurement in order to support solution providers in preparing to deliver new CFE solutions to customers as these market updates are implemented. CEBI invites customers, solution providers, and voluntary market system stakeholders to the third NextGen Activator workshop on May 18th in-person at our Spring Summit in Detroit (registration here), which will inform open questions about the role of avoided emissions in CFE procurement decision making and greenhouse gas accounting and reporting.

Top 5 Things to Do at the 2022 CEBA Connect: Spring Summit

The premier convening for energy and sustainability professionals dedicated to advancing a carbon-free energy future is around the corner. CEBA Connect: Spring Summit is where the CEBA community builds common understanding of emerging market and policy trends and advances opportunities to scale clean energy to decarbonize the power sector. This year’s Summit is May 16-18 in Detroit, Michigan. If you’re on the fence about attending, here are five reasons you don’t want to miss this must-see event:

#5. Rockstar Keynote Lineup 

This is your chance to hear from national leaders about the latest Clean Energy news and trends. 

#4. Meeting of the Minds

Network with peers from over 300 organizations. Summit is the prime opportunity to leverage peer-to-peer expertise, learn key policy and regulatory developments impacting access to clean energy and build foundational knowledge to accelerate impact toward your organization’s energy and sustainability goals.

#3 Choose Your Own Adventure

This year’s Summit features three types of sessions and eight tracks, ensuring there is something there for everyone: 

#2. AY Young

After learning that more than 1 billion people lacked electricity during a U.S. tour, AY Young powering concerts using renewable energy, raising awareness about sustainability, and fundraising to bring people electricity. Catch a special musical performance by AY, who is a United Nations Young Leader for Sustainable Development Goals, at the CEBA Connect Spring Summit. 

His song “Save the Plant” speaks for itself: (725) AY Young (AY-Musik) – Save The Planet LIVE powered by Renewable Energy “Battery Tour” – YouTube

#1 Insider Info

CEBA Ceo Miranda Ballentine and others on the CEBA executive team will be giving insider insights during the CEBA State of the Market.

Bonus: Check out Things to Do in Detroit

Excited about attending 2022 CEBA Connect: Spring Summit? Register now!

Energy Customers Identify Key Objectives for New Solutions to Optimize Decarbonization Impact

The Clean Energy Buyers Institute launched its NextGen Activator Workshop series to identify energy market gaps and changes necessary to help energy customers advance toward their clean energy goals.

A clear view of gaps in the current market system underpinning carbon-free electricity procurement has emerged as energy customers explore advanced strategies to meet ambitious energy and climate goals. The Clean Energy Buyers Institute (CEBI) recently launched the Next-Generation Clean Electricity Procurement Initiative to engage market stakeholders through a series of workshops to identify critical market interventions to evolve the current system of energy attributes, data, greenhouse gas accounting frameworks, and leadership recognition programs.

The NextGen Activator Workshop series was convened by CEBI to understand the needs of energy customers that want to have greater impact toward advancing the wider decarbonization of the electric grid – such as making it possible to procure carbon-free energy at any time of day, in more carbon-intensive locations, and to cover their value chains – and to discuss the next generation solutions critical to advancing a carbon-free energy system. Over 30 energy customers participated in the first workshop representing various industries, including retailers, manufacturers, federal agencies, and information technology companies.

Participants identified eight objectives they hope to see included in new procurement solutions and recognition programs to enable them to use their voluntary procurement investments to support systemic grid decarbonization. The main takeaway: solution providers and market stakeholders should consider introducing solutions that empower energy customers to:

The 30+ customers surveyed expressed that each of these objectives are either very or somewhat relevant to their energy and climate strategy. Even more notable for solution providers and market stakeholders to consider: more than two-thirds of customers would strongly consider standardized procurement options meeting any of these objectives if customers were to be incentivized to achieve the resulting impacts of the procurement option.

Looking ahead, CEBI is now working with NextGen Activators to identify gaps in the current system of energy attributes, data, greenhouse gas accounting frameworks, and leadership recognition programs that must be filled to broaden the suite of procurement options available that address these customer objectives. The identification of these barriers will clarify which market stakeholders are best positioned to support this evolution and the implementation of solutions. 

CEBI invites customers and solution providers to join us for the second workshop in this NextGen Activator series on April 19th (registration here). CEBI also invites customers, solution providers, and other system stakeholders to the third workshop on May 18th in-person at our Spring Summit in Detroit (registration here). For more background on how the current system drives the voluntary market for clean electricity procurement, check out this recorded level-setting educational session.

The Business Case for Deploying Clean Energy Technologies

The development and deployment of new clean energy technologies will be critical to driving grid decarbonization and achieving the Clean Energy Buyers Association’s (CEBA) aspiration of a 90% carbon-free U.S. electricity system by 2030. 

Energy customers are seeking innovative technologies to help  meet impactful sustainability goals, they are ill-equipped to evaluate the benefits and risks associated with implementing new technologies within their business operations. 

At the same time, clean energy technologies need validation from energy customers to successfully cross the commercialization valley of death and become scalable commercial products. Energy customers can support early-stage technologies through demonstrations and showing proof of concept, however, many energy customers are unfamiliar with the cleantech ecosystem and even experienced customers encounter challenges when evaluating benefits and risks associated with emerging technologies to go to market and become successful, scalable commercial products. 

Recently CEBA hosted a clean tech webinar series where energy customers convened to uncover common barriers and challenges in deploying new clean energy technologies and collaborate on viable solutions. The lessons learned from the workshop proved that energy customers are uniquely positioned to expedite the execution of these next generation technologies by testing them in real-world market conditions and providing critical demand-side feedback. 

Three key action areas for building a strong business case for clean technology deployment emerged from the workshops: 

CEBA members interested in learning more can go to CEBA Interconnect to access member-exclusive resources, including Building a Business Case for Deploying Clean Energy Technologies Primer. Not a member? Learn more about CEBA membership options. For more information about CEBA’s Clean Tech initiative, email innovation@cebuyers.org.

Does Your Company Use Data? Green Your Data Center Services With New Contract Guide!

Today, data centers use at least 1% of the world’s electricity1 and some estimates put this number as high as 2%. As businesses continue to grow and take their operations online, their digital appetite will increase. The bad news? All this data live in data centers or on the cloud, using tons of electricity, which creates greenhouse gas emissions. The good news? Customers of colocation data center facilities and outsourced cloud infrastructure services have a tremendous opportunity to accelerate decarbonization in the data center industry, as well as reduce their own emissions, by leveraging their collective demand to consistently ask for sustainable solutions. Many customers and providers of data services are already addressing this issue by creating resources and identifying solutions that will enable the data center industry to grow sustainably.

One such resource is CEBA’s new Sample Contract Language for Data Center Customers Primer, developed in collaboration with CEBA members participating in the Future of Internet Power (FoIP) initiative. This resource provides sample language that customers can use in contracts for data services to ensure that their providers are practicing sustainable energy management and taking real, tangible action towards decarbonization. Ensuring sustainable energy management by data services providers will in turn help customers manage and reduce the emissions associated with their data services contracts. The contract language provided in this resource addresses issues of efficiency, clean electricity procurement, electricity and environmental data transparency, and public disclosure. 

By leveraging the contract language in this resource, customers can procure data services that will help them meet their clean energy, efficiency, data disclosure, and other sustainability goals. Additionally, companies have an opportunity to drive progress beyond their individual goals. By consistently and collectively asking for sustainable energy solutions in data centers, customers can use their buying power for good. They can send a strong demand signal to providers, accelerate sustainable solutions in data centers, and help advance the decarbonization of the industry.

CEBA members can view and download the Sample Contract Language for Data Center Customers Primer on CEBA InterConnect. Not a member? Learn more about CEBA membership options. 

Additional resources to help data center customers and service providers advance clean energy are available through CEBA’s Future of Internet Power program.  Email supplychain@cebuyers.org for more information.



1IEA Report “Data Centres and Data Transmission Networks,” 2021

CEBA Member Highlight: ITRenew

The definition of sustainability often refers to the three Es – environment, economy, and equity. It states that any activity must have a balanced framework supported by these three pillars and meet today’s needs without compromising the needs of future generations. The last decade resulted in substantial demonstration of the first two Es, for example, power generation from clean energy sources surpassed coal, costs have dropped significantly for electricity from solar and wind, and unprecedented momentum was gained for climate action advocates. While we continue to build on that work, this is another decade for decisive climate action, and it demands that we champion the third pillar of sustainability – equity. 

For this call to action, we must identify and mitigate the undue burdens that climate changes places on already-challenged populations. At ITRenew, our work is based on the principles of IT asset circularity. We are recycling and remarketing solutions, and redesigning materials to be less resource intensive. ITRenew is poised to collaborate with other companies who align with our desire to create a more sustainable world, built on the principles of a circular economy, and fulfilling the true meaning of sustainability. 

  • How can we collaborate to build a larger clean energy project optimized for excessive infrastructure? 
  • What does it take to band together on a project that uplifts an underserved community? 
  • Is there a way to create synergies and overcome the linear systems that keep us siloed?

There is tremendous opportunity to join forces with companies who want to embody a circular economy and construct the third pillar of sustainability – equity. ITRenew has set out to reach net zero for its carbon footprint and believes it can achieve the equity pillar by working with others. 

Founded in 2000, ITRenew principally serves hyperscalers, the fastest growing segment of the global IT Asset Disposition market. Their mission is to prove that financial success is not incompatible with having a positive impact on our environment and society.

Clean Energy Buyers Institute (CEBI) to Advance Systemic Grid Decarbonization

Next Generation Carbon-Free Electricity Procurement Initiative to leverage energy customers’ perspectives and demand for new procurement options.

What’s better than 45 GW of customer-driven renewable energy deployment? Answer: energy customers driving full decarbonization of the power sector using all carbon-free technologies.

The Clean Energy Buyers Institute (CEBI) launched the Next Generation Carbon-Free Electricity Procurement (NextGen) Initiative to help bring more procurement options to the market for energy customers and accelerate advancement toward a 90% carbon-free U.S. electricity system by 2030. 

Over the last two decades, the energy sector experienced significant changes that lowered carbon emissions and supported progress toward climate action targets, including exponential growth in wind and solar capacity, significant investment in clean energy technology, market-friendly energy policy changes, and a decreased reliance on fossil fuels. The voluntary procurement of clean energy led by energy customers advanced the evolution of the energy market and will continue to drive critical investments in the years to come. 

The challenge: While continued growth in wind and solar capacity is critical to achieving a decarbonized electricity system, variable renewable energy alone is insufficient to deliver a 90% carbon-free grid across all hours of the day, every day of the year. Investments in carbon-free firm energy resources, such as long- and short-duration storage, are needed to fill daily and seasonal intermittency without emitting greenhouse gases. 

The solution: Updating the existing system of greenhouse gas accounting standards, energy attribute certificates, and energy and emissions data available—which together underpin today’s markets—will enable the procurement options that take the grid toward deeper decarbonization. To make this evolution in procurement options and incentives to procure them a reality, there are three prerequisites: 

The NextGen Initiative will unlock new solutions and markets for carbon-free energy procurement by addressing barriers, like improved access to granular energy and emissions data, that currently prevent energy customers from achieving their goals and supporting the investments in carbon-free resources and systems that are necessary to decarbonize the grid for all. Once more attributes, such as time, location and quantitative carbon value are captured and supported with the right data, energy and service providers can deliver advanced solutions for customers. 

The Clean Energy Buyers Institute (CEBI) will convene a diverse NextGen Activator community—including energy customers, energy providers, service providers, energy attribute certificate registries, recognition programs, and standards bodies—to inform the development of various next generation procurement principles, guidance documents, and educational resources. These solutions-oriented resources will focus on characterizing customers’ electricity-related greenhouse gas reduction strategies and the associated challenges. CEBI will also participate in industry initiatives to synchronize efforts to guide the evolution to the current system of greenhouse gas accounting standards, energy attribute certificates, and energy and emissions data. 

CEBI will kick off its NextGen Activator workshop series with an energy customer-focused educational and workshop session on March 30, 2022 to define common customer experiences and begin revealing the functional data, attribute, accounting, and recognition-related requirements for next generation procurement options.

To learn more about how to become a NextGen Activator and support this initiative, please contact the NextGen Initiative team via NextGen@cebi.org.

Community Solar: Supporting Clean Energy Where Your Employees Live, Work, and Play

Community solar can be a strong option for energy customers – like companies from the commercial and industrial sector – that want to demonstrate a commitment to locally-sourced clean energy and sustainability but experience challenges with on-site installations.

Community-distributed generation, also known as shared solar or solar gardens, typically provides between 0.5 and 5 megawatts AC (MWac) of grid-connected energy production and offers energy customers a middle ground between small-scale installation and large utility-scale procurement.  

Community solar projects expand access to clean energy and empower customers to rapidly deploy carbon-free energy. When an energy customer company subscribes to a set amount of electricity generated from a community solar project located in its utility service territory, it acts as a credit-worthy anchor tenant and can help developers secure financing that otherwise would not be available. The energy customer can then claim support of locally sourced clean energy and also receive bill credits for energy produced that can reduce the company’s total energy expenditure. While many companies are unable to retain renewable energy credits (RECs) from community solar project in certain locations, unbundled replacement RECs may be purchased to validate claims of operating off renewable energy without significant financial impact.  

The exact rules around community solar participation vary by location, but projects are often legally required to provide at least 50% of their output to residential or small commercial customers. In many instances, the resulting energy is earmarked for low- to moderate-income residents who often shoulder a disproportionate share of the energy burden. This means that an energy customer that anchors a community solar project can achieve cost savings for the business, and help members of local communities reduce energy costs, too.

Why community solar and why now?   

The community solar market is growing rapidly in part thanks to the potential increase of projects resulting from the December 2020 extension of the Investment Tax Credit for commercial projects that begin construction in 2021 and 2022. There are more opportunities to combine subscriptions to several different projects and increase the scale of clean energy procurement as more sites are developed. As the market for community solar expands, the widening geographic footprint gives energy customers more opportunities to support local projects and create economic growth for communities. 

CEBA members interested in learning more about community solar can go to CEBA Interconnect to access our member-exclusive Community Solar Primer. Not a member? Learn more about CEBA membership options.