I just got off the phone with Wal-Mart, who is very excited to announce that they'll be purchasing 100% of the power generated by a new wind farm in Texas. The power will be bought by 360 Texas stores and distribution centers, providing about 15% of the power those locations need.
This is a good step toward Wal-Mart's goal of producing 100% of its power from renewable sources.
But on during the call I just had with Wal-Mart, there was a tone of caution in that goal. Over the last few months, with energy prices dropping, and new investment looking less likely, Wal-Mart was more careful about its renewable energy goal.
"One of the difficulties we have is projecting savings over the term of the agreement, and [this year] it's been hard to project even a month ahead." And when I asked whether they thought dropping prices of traditional energy would slow their plans toward renewable energy, they were uncertain.
But the clearest message was sent by Kim Saylors-Lester, who said that Wal-Mart remained 100% committed to its renewable energy goals, as long as the renewable energy matched or beat grid parity. Grid parity means the price at which electricity comes from the gird. So, basically, Wal-Mart is absolutely committed to the environment, as long as it saves them money.
I don't want to belittle this goal, however. It's clear that Wal-Mart is a corporate monolith which answers only to its stock holders...that is no surprise. And their focus on grid-parity is fairly important. Wal-Mart has, for it's whole history, focused on forcing suppliers to innovate in order to reduce prices. If they can innovate enough, then they win the coveted Wal-Mart contract, which can make or break a business.
So it's good that Wal-Mart is using its muscle to force energy companies to figure out way to keep their prices down. Hopefully, they won't cut too many corners and that innovation will make its way into America's energy mix.
In the end, a reporter from GreenBiz asked how far along Wal-Mart was in it's goal to be 100% renewable. "But how far along...one percent? Less than one perecent?"
Wal-Mart's answer: "It's very early."
written by Kamic, December 05, 2008
written by Burnman, December 05, 2008
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