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Tuesday, Nov 25, 2014
Editorials

The virtues of corporate energy independence

Published:

In a revealing development, major corporations are increasingly generating their own clean power and easing their dependence on utilities and traditional fuels.

This is not occurring because of government dictates, greenhouse standards or even federal subsidies.

The market is driving the change. Executives recognize smart energy policies cut costs and increase production.

The Wall Street Journal recently discovered, “Since 2006, the number of electricity-generations units at commercial and industrial sites has more than quadrupled to roughly 40,000 from about 10,000 ...”

The trend spans from “big-box retailers to high-tech manufacturers.”

A motivation for many is to protect production from long-lasting power outages after weather disasters, which seem to be striking with increasing regularity.

Many environmentalists attribute the volatile weather to the effects of greenhouse emissions.

But that debate is of little concern to the executives making these decisions.

They’re finding that developing their own energy sources is good for the bottom line.

For instance, The Wall Street Journal found Kroger Co., a grocery store chain, installed wind turbines at a Pennsylvania dairy that allowed it to save 25 percent on its energy bill.

Kroger also installed a tank system at a California food-distribution center where “bacteria covert 150 tons a day of damaged produce, bread and other organic waste into a biogas that is burned on site to produce 20 percent of the electricity the facility uses.”

These projects, along with installing solar panels at four grocery stores and adopting energy-efficiency practices, save the company $160 million a year — as well as providing it a reliable energy supply.

It is those kind of numbers, not predictions of environmental doom and gloom, that are more likely to motivate enterprises to pursue clean energy production.

And consider: A federal report found from 2003 to 2013 that power outages cost the U.S. economy $18 billion to $52 billion a year.

Technological advancements that have greatly decreased the prices of solar panels are encouraging the transition.

Washington and state governments have provided subsidies for clean energy projects, but lower costs for energy-production equipment looks to be driving the change.

The number of on-site electricity generation is still only 5 percent, but that will surely increase as more businesses follow the innovative energy leadership of such companies as Kroger and Apple, which has a North Carolina data center that generates all the energy it consumes.

There is a possible downside to the trend, as the Journal reports. As big utilities lose corporate customers, there will be fewer consumers to pay for the costs of transmission lines and power plants, which could lead to higher costs.

Perhaps, but as the private sector’s growing investment in energy independence underscores, the ability of this innovative nation to adapt to the needs of the marketplace should not be underestimated.

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