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October 23, 2015 | American Businesses Embracing Solar Energy By Signing RE100 Pledge

Climate change has been in the news a lot lately. From the polar vortex of 2014, to the grudging admittance that science might be right from several GOP candidates during the run-up to the next presidential election, to the 2015 announcement that President Obama will be working with China to curb their mutual emissions, it seems like the problem is finally being addressed on a large scale. With so much attention being focused on this issue, a lot of businesses are hopping on the bandwagon as well. Some of them are even upping the ante and joining a pledge to go 100 percent renewable.

The RE100 Pledge

Roughly a year ago, the not-for-profit organization Climate Group created the RE100 pledge. The pledge is a straightforward promise directed at businesses, which states that they will continue taking steps to implement renewable power until their businesses run off of 100 percent clean energy. It may sound like a pipe dream, but companies as big as Starbucks and Nike have signed on, along with looming names like Wal-Mart, Johnson and Johnson, and even Goldman Sachs.

Will It Actually Accomplish Anything?

To be clear, the RE100 pledge is nothing like the guidelines that businesses are legally required to follow in Europe, ever since the Kyoto Protocol was accepted. The pledge doesn't set a timeline for when businesses need to be operating on 100 percent renewable power, and it doesn't have any actual consequences for those businesses who fall off the wagon. It's a social contract, and it appears to be largely on the signatories' honors.

Just because there aren't any "teeth" behind RE100, though, doesn't mean several of the signatories aren't taking it seriously. Wal-Mart, for example, claims that 24 percent of its total electricity use (which is substantial when you consider the sheer size of the Wal-Mart empire) comes from renewable sources like solar energy. Given that there are at least 36 major corporations signed onto this pledge, according to Solar Daily, it has the potential to create serious, noticeable change.

Big Business's Rejection of Fossil Fuels (And What It Means)

According to a recently released study, more trillion-dollar corporations than ever before are renouncing fossil fuels and demanding a change to renewable resources. While that may sound like a simple, cut-and-dry solution, there are actually several layers beneath this sea change from the private sector.

Renewable energy in general, and solar energy in particular, has seen a massive growth over the past few years. From Vermont, to Texas, to California, renewable energy has proven to be a reliable source of energy. Even better, from a big business standpoint, the more green energy there is available to the grid, the less expensive it becomes. Fossil fuels, on the other hand, are growing scarcer and more expensive. Market parity (that point where green energy and fossil fuels are the same price) has become a reality in many places. Several companies on the list, like Wal-Mart, have already invested in generating their own solar power with panels on the roofs of their establishments.

What does all that mean? It means that renewable power, especially solar energy, is an avalanche that's just starting to pick up speed. Businesses that have signed the RE100 pledge have decided that it's a better idea to go with the flow, rather than to try to prop up outdated methods of power generation which are demonstrably hurting the environment. Businesses aren't sacrificing an easier, cheaper means of doing business; they're investing in tomorrow because they know that it's coming, whether or not they're on board.

As with all things in business, it's better to be ahead of the curve.