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07 Sep 2023

Spotlight On: REI Announces New Renewable Energy Commitments

 

 

An REI location in Texas. Photo Courtesy of REI

The modern co-op has come a long way since its inception. Co-ops like REI have taken the movement to a whole new level, showing us all the true power of investing in local communities. 

REI is a true embodiment of the "think globally, act locally" mindset, acknowledging that their business extends far beyond the physical street address. From their environmentally friendly approach to their community outreach programs, REI has always been ahead of the curve in understanding the importance of having a positive impact on both their local and global communities. They embody the true spirit of collective effort and serve as a model for businesses looking to make a meaningful difference.

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. The 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 on bold business leadership, 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 ten consecutive years.
  • 7% increase in 2022 greenhouse gas footprint compared to their 2019 baseline year.
  • 371 metric tons of CO2eq1 per million dollars of revenue.
  • 320,300 metric tons CO2eq of carbon credits purchased to maintain carbon neutrality across our operations in 2022. 

REI’s Renewable Energy Projects

Puget Sound Energy’s Green Direct Program

In the last ten 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 MWhs (megawatt hours) 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. It is crucial for everyone to have access to renewable energy for a sustainable future. REI is actively collaborating with communities and utilities across the U.S. 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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