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Corporate Renewable Energy Goals: What Does “100% Renewable” Really Mean?

July 2019

Citation: ELR 10648

Author: Sofia O’Connor, James McElfish, and Lovinia Reynolds

There is a movement among companies to use more renewable energy and less energy obtained from fossil fuels. Some are pledging to go “100% renewable,” while many others have set goals to rely on substantial percentages of renewable energy. In addition to setting these goals, many companies report on how much renewable energy they currently use, and convey this information in annual sustainability reports or in publicly issued statements and news releases. As companies commit to relying exclusively or to a larger extent on renewable energy, members of the public should examine what specifically a company means by its goal, and what it means when it reports progress. This Article seeks to demystify the voluntary world of corporate renewable energy claims. It reviews company statements to understand the different strategies companies employ and the actual effects their actions have on the development of new renewable energy projects and the demand for renewable electric power.

Sofia O’Connor is a Staff Attorney at the Environmental Law Institute (ELI). James McElfish is a Senior Attorney and Director of the Sustainable Use of Land Program at ELI. Lovinia Reynolds is a Research Associate at ELI.

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