July 5, 2019

How Clean Energy Can Drive Business

by Dylan Borchers, Bricker & Eckler LLP

The goals and benefits of today’s businesses increasingly need to be all-encompassing—for their customers and clients, their communities and the environment.

Fortunately, when it comes to the environment and decisions about clean energy initiatives, Ohio businesses have many options with great benefits that appeal to both stakeholders and bottom lines. Here are a few ways businesses can propel themselves forward through clean energy initiatives:

Electric Vehicle (EV) Charging Stations: According to Mark Patton of the Columbus Partnership, Ohio has an estimated 14,000 EVs on the road, including around 4,000 in Columbus. Those numbers are expected to rise dramatically. As the EV market heats up, businesses need to keep up with demand. Cities across the U.S. are requiring new development to include EV charging station infrastructure. In fact, Cincinnati now requires new parking garages receiving public or tax incremental financing to include EV charging. In the very near future, employees and residents of multi-family buildings will expect parking to be equipped with EV spaces.

Retailers are also meeting demand by installing charging stations for customers. According to ChargePoint, charging stations attract customers and keep them in the store longer. One major retailer found that its charging station tripled customer time spent in store, as well as the dollar amount spent.

PACE Financing: Property owners throughout the Midwest are using property assessed clean energy (PACE) financing to unlock energy savings and renewable energy opportunities. PACE allows them to pay for energy efficiency and renewable energy technologies through special assessments paid with their property taxes. In the last decade, Ohio has seen over $209 million in PACE-financed energy improvement projects with the majority of them involving commercial properties. PACE was recently used as part of a $25 million rehabilitation of Dayton’s Delco building and $3.3 million in upgrades to the PNC Plaza office tower in downtown Columbus.

Onsite Renewable Energy Generation: Onsite, or “behind-the-meter,” generation offers businesses a way to control energy costs by generating a portion of their energy with onsite solar panels or other advanced energy technology. This effectively acts as a hedge against volatile energy market prices. When paired with battery storage, onsite generation can be effective in reducing peak demand charges. Ohio is the nationwide leader in behind-the-meter wind capacity. Large industrial companies, such as Whirlpool, Marathon and Ball Corp., have installed large wind turbines at their manufacturing facilities located in Ohio.

Renewable Energy Procurement: Ohio’s deregulated electric sector allows many businesses to shop among competitive retail electric suppliers. A number of these suppliers offer renewable energy-based products. Businesses can also take advantage of Ohio’s location in the large regional grid and electric market, the PJM Interconnection, to purchase renewable energy through direct or virtual power purchase agreements. The Renewable Energy Buyers Alliance is a membership association that procures renewable energy across the country. Members include Facebook, General Motors, Google and Walmart, to name a few. Its mission is to target 60 gigawatts of non-utility renewables by 2025.

There are many ways that businesses can not only become environmental advocates but also increase revenue and/or reduce costs. Today, clean energy initiatives are not just an amenity, they are a necessity to staying successful in the marketplace. Even more good news—these opportunities are likely going to expand in the future.

There are many ways that businesses can not only become environmental advocates but also increase revenue and/or reduce costs.