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REI Renewable Energy: Understanding the Company’s Commitments
The modern-day co-op has moved beyond the bulk granola aisle. REI is the perfect example of why you should never underestimate the power of the local collective. REI embodies a “think globally, act locally” perspective, acknowledging that the actual footprint of doing business extends far beyond the physical street address.
This spring, REI celebrated its first decade of using 100% renewable electricity to power all its stores, distribution centers, and offices. Like the boundary-pushing outdoors adventures they outfit, they’re continuing to push the limits of business as usual in corporate sustainability with new measures to remove barriers to renewable energy for small businesses and communities.
Think Globally, Act Locally
What started as a small co-op in Seattle over eight decades ago has grown to become one of the leading outdoor retailers in the world. Recreational Equipment, Inc. (REI) has a rich history that spans back to 1938 when a group of local mountaineers pooled resources to purchase quality gear.
From there, the co-op continued to expand and evolve, always with a mission to inspire and enable a life outdoors. Along the way, REI pioneered many aspects of the outdoor industry, from introducing the first all-metal ice axe to guaranteeing customer satisfaction with products. Today, REI is more than just a retail company — it’s a community of outdoor enthusiasts who share a love for adventure and a responsibility to protect the planet.
Moving Beyond the Megawatt
In the spring of 2023, REI announced a renewed commitment to move beyond the megawatt with a leveled-up clean energy commitment. Beyond the Megawatt (BTM) Initiative advocates for carbon-free energy systems that are resilient, equitable, and environmentally sustainable. Alongside pursuing hard megawattage goals, REI is going beyond to support local sources of clean energy by increasing rooftop solar installations and formalizing its efforts to support local communities.
According to Kate Wendt, Vice President of Strategy, Transformation, and Sustainability at REI, two key strategies will be implemented to support smaller companies on their clean energy journeys.
- REI will work with utility companies to offer renewable power programs to SMEs.
- They will also partner with project developers to simplify transactions so businesses of all sizes can directly procure renewable energy.
Both of these approaches aim to enable smaller buyers to participate in clean energy procurement. As the demand for clean energy increases, competition for available projects grows, making it difficult for smaller buyers to secure meaningful procurements. By streamlining the process, they hope to stimulate new clean energy development and ensure the construction of solar and wind power plants that can serve local communities at an affordable cost.
REI’s Smashes Benchmarks
This power co-op has used an effective three-prong approach to fight the climate crisis, focusing on large-scale societal changes. Their strategy centers around bold business leadership and innovation, effective government, and empowered consumers.
REI has continually overshot already ambitious impact goals in its 85-year history. According to its 2022 Impact Report, recent progress touts:
- 100% renewable energy for 10 consecutive years.
- 7% increase in 2022 greenhouse gas footprint compared to their 2019 baseline year.
- 371 metric tons of CO2eq per million dollars of revenue.
- 320,300 metric tons CO2eq of carbon credits purchased to maintain carbon neutrality across our operations in 2022.
REI Renewable Energy Projects
Here is a summary of REI’s current renewable energy projects.
Puget Sound Energy’s Green Direct Program
In the last 10 years, REI has implemented several sustainability measures, such as installing solar panels on its buildings, procuring renewable energy from the grid, and purchasing renewable energy certificates. Nowhere has this been more demonstrative than on its home turf in Washington State, where REI has utilized its purchasing influence to support investments in renewable energy production. As a founding partner in Puget Sound Energy’s Green Direct Program, REI collaborates with other local buyers to obtain wind power for their operations.
“Renewable energy purchases are increasingly complex, require high volume purchases and long-term agreements that aren’t possible for most small businesses to commit to,” Wendt said. “Not every customer can buy renewable energy at the scale of a national retailer.”
Middle Tennessee Electric
Middle Tennessee Electric is partnering with REI to install a rooftop solar array totaling 1.1 megawatts (MW) to provide power to REI’s new distribution center. Additionally, the co-op currently manages more than 20 rooftop solar installations in other retail locations.
Off-Site Solar with Ever.green
REI has partnered with Ever.green, a project developer, for the installation of an off-site solar system in Texas. The aim is to power six retail stores in Houston and Dallas to supply an estimated 2,500 megawatt hours (MWhs) annually to fully meet their power needs.
REI will work closely with Ever.green throughout this collaboration to establish a streamlined transaction model. REI aims to expand access to locally generated renewable power by minimizing transaction size with Ever.green to just 1/100th of a standard corporate renewable energy project. This initiative aims to include smaller retailers and local businesses as participants, not just leading corporate renewable energy buyers.
The Future Under REI’s Watch
Climate change poses the biggest threat to the future of our environment. Everyone needs to have access to renewable energy for a sustainable future. REI is actively collaborating with communities and utilities across the United States to ensure that renewable energy is both local and accessible. By establishing its renewables initiative, REI aims to eliminate barriers faced by small businesses and communities and simplify the process of sourcing clean electricity, thus accelerating the transition to clean energy.
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