The Renewable Energy Buyers Alliance (REBA) Nov. 2 released a set of ten guiding principles to organize new wholesale energy markets — principles the alliance says will spur greater investment in renewable energy and drive down prices by encouraging greater market competition, transparency and scalability.
The creation of additional wholesale energy markets will increase grid flexibility and help more corporations achieve 24/7 renewable energy goals, representatives from GM and Google, two of REBA's over 300 members, told Utility Dive.
Some 80% of corporate power purchase agreements have taken place within existing wholesale energy markets, according to REBA, which also said that "instituting organized wholesale markets in all regions of the country" will enable more such deals to take place.
For more corporations to reach the next stage of climate and energy goals, REBA and several of its largest members say the U.S. needs to create more wholesale energy markets — and they have a plan for organizing them.
In a new document describing ten principles for the organization of such markets, REBA outlines a vision in which customer demand and transparency drive energy generation and acquisition. According to the principles, an effective wholesale energy market should:
- Maintain an open and level playing field,
- Make room for demand participation,
- Provide value-added services to customers,
- Feature independent grid governance,
- Prioritize transparency,
- Seek stakeholder participation,
- Pursue large geographic footprints,
- Offer multiple options for customers,
- Respect state and federal policymakers, and
- Stabilize market volatility.
"As we think about the wholesale markets, we want to drive toward a clean and lean grid," Rob Threlkeld, global manager of sustainable energy, supply and reliability at General Motors, said in an interview. "We're moving from big, centralized plants to a decentralized grid, and as we do it, it allows us to really optimize the grid itself."
About 80% of the 26 GW of renewable energy procured by corporations exists within organized markets, according to REBA CEO Miranda Ballentine. Energy customers increasingly want clean energy, Ballentine said, and so giving those customers greater choices via a free market system will drive down costs and encourage greater innovation.
From GM's perspective, Threlkeld said, wholesale markets will not only drive efficiencies through competition, but will also enable an overall optimization of the U.S. electric grid.
As GM thinks about its own environmental footprint and about the increased adoption of energy storage — including batteries in electric vehicles —Threlkeld said the company has begun to take a broader view of what it means to leverage demand response and renewable energy.
"I don't necessarily see us as a retailer of energy," he said, "but I do see us as an enabler. As utilities ... look at demand response mechanisms, EVs can become a resource."
A wholesale market, Threlkeld said, encourages innovators to find ways to make the best use of the sun when it's shining, the wind when it's blowing, and fleets of vehicles that can also serve as distributed energy generation.
Wholesale energy markets will also play an important role in the next generation of corporate climate goals, Ballentine said.
"One of the big trends we're seeing is a shift toward ensuring that procurement practices have a material impact on the grid," Ballentine said. "Without organized markets, companies have been forced into virtual PPAs that force them to procure energy far away from where their load actually is. More companies are achieving that goal on paper, but when they look at the power they're actually consuming at their facilities on any given day, they realize there's still a lot of carbon-intensive power on there."
Google, Ballentine said, kicked off this transition with the introduction of its 24/7 clean energy goal, and Michael Terrell, director of operations and head of energy market strategy at Google, said the internet giant believes organized wholesale markets are an important tool for accelerating the realization of that goal.
"We've employed both models — we've done direct deals, and we've worked with utility partners," Terrell said in an interview. "We want to have all options available, but [wholesale markets are] certainly a fast option."