Walmart President and CEO Mike Duke last week announced the company's next step on the path to achieving its goal of being supplied 100 percent by renewable energy. Unveiled at Walmart's Global Sustainability Milestone Meeting, the company committed to achieving the following by Dec. 31, 2020:
-- Drive the production or procurement of 7 billion kWh of renewable energy globally every year, a 600 percent increase over 2010 levels;
-- Reduce the kWh/sq. ft. energy intensity required to power Walmart's buildings globally by 20 percent compared to 2010 levels.
"More than ever, we know that our goal to be supplied 100 percent by renewable energy is the right goal and that marrying up renewables with energy efficiency is especially powerful," said Duke. "The math adds up pretty quickly - when we use less energy that's less energy we have to buy, and that means less waste and more savings. These new commitments will make us a stronger business, and they're great for our communities and the environment."
Walmart's six-fold increase in renewable energy projects is expected to be equal to eliminating the need for roughly two U.S. fossil fuel power plants. Based on external estimates of projected energy costs and other factors, the two new commitments are anticipated to generate more than $1 billion annually in energy savings once fully implemented.
We will also avoid 9 million metric tons of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, the equivalent of taking 1.5 million cars off the road, in effect halting the growth of GHG emissions from the company's largest GHG source - energy used to power buildings - by 2020. For the first time, the company is projecting this GHG decrease even with significant anticipated growth in stores and sales.
"When I look at the future, energy costs may grow as much as twice as fast as our anticipated store and club growth," Duke said. "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."
Already today, over the term of its power purchase agreements (PPAs), the renewable energy Walmart buys either meets or beats non-renewable power prices. In 2012 alone, Walmart added nearly 100 renewable energy projects, bringing the total number of projects in operation worldwide to nearly 300 today. According to the Solar Energy Industry Association, it has more solar power capacity and number of systems than any other company in America. Walmart has also been cited by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as America's leading user of onsite renewables, using more onsite renewable power than any other company in the U.S. These new commitments will further strengthen Walmart's leadership position and make a strong statement about the viability and affordability of renewable energy.
In the U.S. alone, Walmart hopes to install solar power on at least 1,000 rooftops and facilities by 2020, a significant increase from just over 200 solar projects in operation or under development currently. In addition to onsite solar, the company will continue to develop projects in wind, fuel cells and other technologies. It will also procure offsite renewable energy from utility-scale projects, such as large wind projects, micro-hydro projects and geothermal.
"Walmart's new sustainability goals are not only a sign of strong leadership for the company, they can spur others around the world to take action. Walmart's commitments show that it understands the urgency of embracing renewable energy to reduce pollution and greenhouse gases, while driving business growth that is cleaner and more efficient," said Andrew Steer, President and CEO, World Resources Institute. "WRI has provided advice on Walmart's renewable energy strategy and has seen the company in action in the United States and in emerging markets, like India, where Walmart is participating in the Green Power Market Development Group. By following through on these commitments, Walmart can set a powerful example for businesses and government officials alike who are looking to move to a more sustainable and low-carbon future."
In order to meet its energy efficiency goal between now and 2020, Walmart projects to increase LED usage in sales floor lighting, parking lots and other applications. Walmart will also focus on market-relevant scalable technologies, including high efficiency HVAC and refrigeration systems and sophisticated energy/building control systems.
These new commitments reinforce the sustainability goals Walmart established in 2005: to be supplied 100 percent by renewable energy; to create zero waste; and to sell products that sustain people and the environment. Renewables and energy efficiency have long been part of Walmart's strategy to operate at every day low cost while also allowing Walmart to be a good steward of the environment.
Since 2005, Walmart has been innovating in renewable energy and increasing energy efficiency. Walmart's buildings are currently powered by 1.1 billion kWh of Walmart-driven renewable energy - enough for a U.S. city of 250,000 people. Added to the renewable energy the company receives from the grid, today, 21 percent of its buildings' total electricity and 17 percent of buildings' total energy use is currently supplied by renewable energy.