20 Years of Growing Clean Energy – And Just Getting Started

By Shannon Kellogg

Amazon Web Services (AWS) is honored to help celebrate the American Council on Renewable Energy (ACORE) as it recognizes its 20th anniversary this week.

When ACORE was founded, the organization set out to bring together leading proponents from all sectors of the renewable energy sector to move renewable energy into the mainstream of America’s economy. It was an ambitious goal built on the belief that bringing leaders with a shared vision together could lead to results and real change. At AWS, we are proud to have been around for much of the ride during most of the last decade; in that time, Amazon has become the largest corporate buyer of renewable energy in the world.

Today, the world that ACORE faces is a completely different energy landscape – shaped, in part, by all of those who have contributed to this great organization and its efforts. Need proof of impact? Last year, more than 90 percent of utility-scale renewable energy growth in the U.S. was financed, developed, owned by, or contracted for, ACORE members.

And that’s not a one-year blip on the radar – thanks to ACORE’s leadership and assistance, the industry has deployed 260 gigawatts of renewable energy onto the grid. Over the past 20 years, private-sector investment in U.S. renewable energy has reached roughly $600 billion, amounting to over 21 percent of U.S. electricity generation (that’s up from just nine percent in 2002). This growth has been a significant economic driver for local communities, as the renewable energy sector has created 516,000 American-based jobs.

And yes: we’re incredibly proud that corporate buyers like Amazon, the largest purchaser of renewable energy globally, have purchased 63 gigawatts of clean energy so far, with more to come.

Government + Industry = Leading the Way 

It’s an impressive history. Yet now is hardly the time to get stuck in the past – instead, we must focus on the future. It’s a future that looks brighter than ever before, but it will also require additional collaboration, insight, expertise, thoughtfulness, and an emphasis on engagement and results.

In short: it’s a future where we’re going to continue to need ACORE’s leadership.

Over the next 20 years, we will need that continued leadership in North America and beyond. And if we’re going to build a future we all can believe in, that work must start with private and public sector leadership united in our efforts to tackle climate change and create a better world for the next generation.

For Amazon and AWS, that work starts with real action and bold commitments to reduce our carbon emissions under the Climate Pledge. Private investment is critical, but we also believe that the federal government has a responsibility to invest in our shared future through legislation that provides robust and long-term support for new renewable energy generation. Working with partners like ACORE, we’re excited to continue those efforts as we move towards tomorrow.

Continuing renewable energy growth will also require bold leadership by state and local governments. That’s because renewable energy can be a key driver of economic development for states that welcome it. It remains a critical part of attracting major employers, many of whom are committed to greening their operations. Take Virginia, for example: between 2019-2023, Amazon alone will be supporting 15 new utility-scale solar farms across the Commonwealth, with a total capacity of 1,430MW (see Virginia Solar Blog for more details). These are real investments in rural communities in Virginia, with over $4 million in direct payments to local farmers and up to $2 million per year in increased tax contributions for localities.

Together, the advancement of smart renewable energy policies at every level of government will be required to build a robust and abundant future. It will be necessary for clean energy developers and policymakers to work closely with local communities to ensure clean energy development works for all community members. And we’ll continue to need ACORE at the center of those conversations in the years ahead.

 An Equitable Future 

The energy transition that’s already underway is not just about energy and our shared climate goals – it’s about communities and the people that call those communities home. To bring about real change, ACORE (and member companies like AWS/Amazon) will have to remain as committed as ever to social and economic justice as part of the shift to a greener future. We are actively working to cultivate a culture of inclusion and equity within the renewable energy sector. But again: it has to focus on action, not just words, and equitable representation is an important step to increasing the availability of affordable, pollution-free renewable energy for urban and rural communities. Through its Accelerate program, ACORE actively seeks to build opportunities for smaller renewable energy companies owned and operated by women and people of color. AWS is proud to be a founding and sustaining sponsor of Accelerate. We’re inspired by the first two cohorts of visionary companies that have participated in the program so far (for a total of twenty-five companies participating in 2021-22).

The Next 20 Years What will our next 20 years look like?

Here’s the truth: they’ll be better with ACORE at the forefront of energy policy and the conversations happening at the intersection of business, government, and how we want to shape our future.

For our team at AWS and Amazon, building the future is at the core of how we serve our customers and our community every day. It’s why we continue our work on the goals set in The Climate Pledge. And it’s also why we won’t rest until we’re powering our global infrastructure footprint with 100 percent renewable power (you can read more about our Amazon Sustainability efforts here – we’re quite proud of our work so far).

But we can’t do that work in a vacuum. And that’s why we need ACORE – today and tomorrow – building on a foundation of two decades spent advancing a shared vision for the future.