The most valuable asset you have is your reputation, and whether you are running a company, organization or municipality, the public’s opinion of you and your place in the world is critical to your success. One area of laser-like public focus right now is environmental stewardship —how responsive your company or organization is to climate change, and what you are doing locally to protect and preserve our environment.
In an era of heightened awareness of climate change the need for more sustainability, becoming “more green” is no longer just a luxury, but often a necessity.
But with apologies to Kermit the Frog, the truth is this: It’s easy being green. You or your company just have to figure out the best place to start.
The first step is to determine a desired outcome. From my experience working in renewable energy, there are typically three outcomes that drive sustainability efforts: cutting and stabilizing energy costs, improving your image, and making the biggest environmental impact your organization possibly can. Determining which outcome you want —and you can easily have them all— will help you identify the best course of action for your organization.
The best way to achieve all three outcomes is to take part in a green energy-generating project. These systems not only have a long-term direct impact on the environment, but will help your organization save money in the long run. There are a variety of ways to do so, such as installing a solar project directly on-site or investing in a remote project, like a solar field or wind farm, elsewhere in the region.
In terms of on-site systems, one of the most popular, proven and safe options to kick start your sustainability mission is through a Power Purchase Agreement (PPA). With a PPA you’re not purchasing a solar project, but rather you’re participating in the project. With zero upfront costs to you, a developer will build a turnkey, green energy-producing project on your site and maintain the system to ensure optimal production over the length of the contract term, which is typically 20-25 years. That’s a huge step in creating a greener, more sustainable organization.
Aligning your interests and your level of commitment minimizes PPA risks as well. Your only commitment is to purchase the energy from the system for your organization; the developer owns the project, and they guarantee a level of output. Because of this, it is in their best interest to maintain and operate an efficient system throughout the duration of the agreement. Thanks to the low costs currently associated with renewable energy, you can lock in a low, budget-friendly price that will allow you to hedge against any volatility in the market, providing your organization years of stability.
The tax benefits of installing a solar project are also something to consider, as there is currently a 26% federal investment tax credit in place. If you were to spend $1,000 on a solar project, you would receive $260 to offset your tax liability. This benefit also works well for non-profits, which have little to no tax liability—the developer that owns the project can invest the tax credits back into your system, and in the end it winds up flowing back to the non-profit’s benefit in a lower price for the power.
If an on-site option doesn’t work for your organization, you can always cut energy costs and utilize green energy through a remote project, such as a solar field or wind farm located in the region. While local companies can look even further beyond New England and into other parts of the country, it’s important to know that investing more locally creates jobs and reduces carbon emissions right in your backyard. There are financial incentives to these options, as well—the remote system will generate electricity and pump power directly into its local grid, and the system will track your allotment of kilowatt hours and convert them to dollar credits, which can then be applied to your utility bill back home.
Facing the global challenge of climate change is a monumental task; for many, this issue will be a defining issue of our lives. Your company, organization or municipality can make a commitment and take action right now to make a difference, to put your brand on the right side of history by implementing sustainability goals. Without question taking these steps can make it easy, as well as financially worthwhile, to go green.
Tricia Rush is Senior Program Manager for PowerOptions, a nonprofit energy-buying consortium which provides cost savings to more than 450 nonprofits and municipalities in Connecticut, Massachusetts and Rhode Island.