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Amazon: As much green power as the grids can handle

Amazon is trying to switch its energy-intensive operations entirely to the use of renewable energy by 2025. Last year, the retail giant's hunger for electricity was equivalent to as much energy as all of Ecuador needs for its power supply. But there are limits.

By 2025, Amazon wants to run its operations exclusively on renewable energy (Image: Pixabay)By 2025, Amazon wants to run its operations exclusively on renewable energy (Image: Pixabay)

Taking a look at the ranking of companies that sign the most green power contracts, the first places are occupied by IT giants. Lone frontrunner: Amazon. Last year, the company bought 10.9 gigawatts of clean power - enough energy to power the entire country of Ecuador - according to BNEF. That means Amazon buys four times as much green power as second-place Meta, which owns Facebook, among other companies. It is followed by Google, Microsoft and, in fifth place, Codelco, a state-owned copper mining company from Chile.

Amazon, however, is pushing itself particularly to the fore because the company has set ambitious goals. 'The Climate Pledge' aims to achieve carbon neutrality by 2040 - 10 years ahead of the Paris Agreement target. "This initiative was co-founded by Amazon in 2019 to build a cross-industry community made up of companies, organizations, individuals and partners working together to address the climate crisis and tackle the challenges of decarbonizing our economy," the company's website states. Amazon also accelerated its announcement to power its operations with 100% renewable energy as early as 2025 instead of 2030.

"When we announced The Pledge in 2019, we got really serious and I would say rigorous and mechanized about our approach to renewable energy,” told Charley Daitch, director of energy and water infrastructure at Amazon Web Services, Amazon’s cloud computing business, CNBC in an interview.

Amazon has increased its renewable energy purchases from 1 gigawatt in 2019 to more than 20 gigawatts today. The company now has 401 projects underway worldwide, including 164 wind and solar farms and 237 rooftop solar projects on Amazon sites. Once all currently planned projects are operational, Amazon's global renewable assets are expected to generate 56,881 GWh of clean energy per year, the company said in late January.

"Amazon's clean energy portfolio doesn't just top the corporate charts—it is now among the leading utilities globally, as well,” said Kyle Harrison, head of sustainability research at Bloomberg New Energy Finance. “The fact that it announced a new annual record of clean energy in a year mired by a global energy crisis, supply chain bottlenecks and high interest rates speaks to its forward planning and expertise in navigating power markets and executing long-term contracts."

The increasing hunger for green power is making procurement more difficult in some cases (Image: Pixabay).

And in the process, forward-looking action is becoming more and more central, because in most countries the expansion of renewable energies has increased enormously in recent years. This, in turn, is leading to problems: The aging power grid in the U.S., for example, is unable to accommodate all the electricity coming from flexible sources like wind and solar. As a result, construction and permitting times have lengthened many projects. "A couple of years ago, the average wind or solar project in the United States had got a two-and-a-half- to three-year development timeline. I think realistically now, in a lot of grids we’re looking at five years or more," Daitch elaborates.

There is a "looming reliability crisis in our electricity markets", James Danly, commissioner at the U.S. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), warned as a result at a recent Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee hearing. "The United States is heading for a very catastrophic situation in terms of reliability," his colleague Mark Christie also said. Growing reliability and resilience challenges due to extreme weather, as well as cyber and physical security threats, require changes to the U.S. power grid. FERC Acting Chairman Willie Phillips said, according to Utility Drive, "We face unprecedented challenges to the reliability of our nation’s electric system."

As a result, Amazon is investing not just at home in the U.S., but around the world, taking advantage of the brand's well-known name. "Our track record of being successful in deploying renewables around the world really gives us that credibility," Daitch makes clear.

And so Amazon will continue to try to build renewable energy projects in countries where conditions are more challenging. Because ultimately, all countries have to play their part in the energy transition anyway.

Katrin Radtke
Amazon, clean, green, renewable energy, wind farm, m solar farm, USA, grid, FERC, energy, asset, investment

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