REI Co-op today celebrated its 10th year of powering all its stores, distribution centers, and offices with 100% renewable electricity. The specialty outdoor retailer is marking the anniversary with a commitment to increase access to renewable energy for everyone by sourcing locally generated renewable energy in each of its 181 stores and supporting clean energy projects that also benefit homeowners, renters and small businesses.
Generating electricity accounts for 25% of carbon emissions in the U.S., according to the Environmental Protection Agency, making it a significant contributor to climate change. With this new commitment, REI Co-op aims to connect more people and organizations to renewable power like wind and solar, helping cut emissions and bringing the benefits of clean energy to more communities.
“Climate change is the greatest threat to the future of life outside, and we need everyone in the fight to have access to the renewable energy transition,” said Kate Wendt, Vice President of Strategy, Transformation and Sustainability. “We’re maximizing our impact by working with communities and utilities across the U.S. to ensure that renewable energy is more local and more accessible by removing the barriers to access faced by small businesses and communities. We’ll be working on simplifying the process of sourcing renewable electricity for everyone so we can accelerate the transition to clean energy.”
REI’s push to increase local production of renewable energy will take several forms, with the co-op committing to:
- Increasing the number of co-op stores with solar installations, so they can contribute to the decarbonization of local grids.
- Working with utilities to offer renewable power programs to small and medium-sized businesses
- Simplifying transactions with project developers so that businesses of all sizes can directly procure impactful renewable energy
As demand for clean energy has grown, small businesses and communities have been priced out of the most common way organizations are achieving clean energy goals. Those goals are often met by purchasing renewable energy certificates (RECs) through a competitive marketplace. RECs offer buyers credit for the same amount of renewable energy produced in any location and fed to the power grid, not necessarily new renewable energy produced in the local area where it is ultimately used. While RECs can serve as a great starting point, committing to locally generated renewable electricity encourages new clean energy development and ensures that new solar and wind power is built to power local communities at an attainable cost.
“Renewable energy purchases are increasingly complex, require high volume purchases and long-term agreements that aren’t possible for most small businesses to commit to,” said Wendt. “Not every customer can buy renewable energy at the scale of a national retailer. That’s why we’re pioneering new models and working with the Clean Energy Buyer’s Association to make renewable energy more accessible to everyone.”
In several upcoming projects, REI is bringing locally produced renewable energy to the communities where the co-op operates. For instance, REI is currently working with Middle Tennessee Electric to install a 1.1 megawatt (MW) rooftop solar array that will supply power to the retailer’s new distribution center. The co-op currently operates over 20 rooftop solar installations.
The co-op is also working with Ever.green to support a new off-site solar power system development in Texas which will supply an estimated 2,500 MWhs (megawatt hours) annually to fully meet the power needs of REI’s six retail stores in the Houston and Dallas area. REI worked closely with Ever.green to develop and support a new transaction model to enable smaller and simplified renewable energy purchases. By reducing the size of their transaction with Ever.green to about 1/100th of a typical corporate renewable energy project, REI hopes to increase the number of businesses that can participate beyond the leading corporate renewable energy buyers, so that a smaller retailer or local business can also buy locally generated renewable power.
REI made a market-leading commitment in 2013 to power its U.S. operations with renewable electricity, and has achieved that goal each year since, generating enough renewable electricity to power over 6,500 homes in the U.S. each of those years. The co-op achieved this goal by adding solar panels to its buildings, purchasing renewable electricity from utilities and purchasing RECs.
Over the ensuing 10 years, REI has leveraged its purchasing power to drive increases in local, renewable energy production in its Washington state offices and stores, as a foundational partner in utility Puget Sound Energy’s Green Direct program, which sourced wind power for use by REI and while granting access to other local buyers.
About the REI Co-op
REI is a specialty outdoor retailer, headquartered near Seattle. The nation’s largest consumer co-op, REI is a growing community of 21.5 million members who expect and love the best quality gear, inspiring expert classes and trips, and outstanding customer service. REI has 181 locations in 42 states and the District of Columbia. If you can’t visit a store, you can shop at REI.com, REI Outlet or the REI shopping app. REI isn’t just about gear. Adventurers can take the trip of a lifetime with REI’s active adventure travel company that runs more than 100 itineraries across the country. In many communities where REI has a presence, professionally trained instructors share their expertise by hosting beginner-to advanced-level classes and workshops about a wide range of activities. To build on the infrastructure that makes life outside possible, REI invests millions annually in hundreds of local and national nonprofits that create access to—and steward—the outdoor places that inspire us all.