Corporate demand for renewable energy is growing, and some states are primed to capitalize on this demand. As renewable energy has become increasingly cost-effective, companies have started setting sustainability goals that include purchasing more renewable energy. Fortune 500 companies, including Intel Corporation and Starbucks, have increasingly declared their commitment to renewable energy. By the end of 2015, fifty-one companies had signed on to a collaborative declaration demanding access to clean electricity. These firms purchased 3.4 GW of renewable energy in 2015—three times the amount purchased in 2014. For many corporations, solar-powered electricity is a desirable option. Corporate buyers have more than doubled their installed solar capacity since 2012. State utilities could meet this demand through a green rider Program, which would allow large corporate customers to voluntarily purchase renewable energy without shifting costs to other ratepayers.
Duke Energy Carolina offers the Green Source Rider program, which provides large energy-intensive customers (such as manufacturers, big-box retailers, college campuses, or data centers) with the option to offset their planned energy consumption with renewable energy. Under the program, customers who have added at least 1 MW of new demand since June 30, 2012 can apply for a three- to fifteen-year contract to buy power from renewable sources. Rates are negotiated on a case-by-case basis and customers are charged a monthly administrative fee and an additional two-tenths of a cent per kilowatt-hour. Participating companies have a different rate structure through the program to ensure that non-participating ratepayers do not pay any additional costs. Google was the first customer to participate in the program, purchasing 61 MW of energy from a solar project in Rutherford County, North Carolina in December 2015 to serve its data center.
State Public Utility Commissions (PUCs) could investigate the impact of allowing utilities to offer non-residential customers voluntary renewable energy tariffs, as Oregon has done. If the renewable energy tariff is deemed to be feasible, the PUC could expressly permit utilities to develop Green Source Rider Programs for companies in their territory and streamline the application process for program approval. A green rider program would foster a solar- and business-friendly climate, while boosting the state’s economy and local jobs.