Walmart's renewable energy approach

To become powered by 100 percent renewable energy, we recognize it will require investing in different technologies and power generation strategies. Our approach is three-pronged:

1. Distributed generation.

    Walmart is a leader in both testing and scaling onsite renewable energy projects, including solar rooftops, microwind on our parking lots, biodiesel generator sets, and fuel cells. Walmart currently has:

  • 115 rooftop solar installations in seven countries (Canada, China, Japan, Mexico, Puerto Rico, U.K. and U.S.), delivering 71 million kilowatt hours of electricity annually to our stores, clubs, and distribution centers. In California alone, approximately 75 percent of the Walmart-owned locations will have rooftop solar installed by the end of 2013. In 2012, Walmart China completed its first rooftop solar project, a formidable task given the unique real estate, regulatory and geopolitical challenges in that market. Rooftop solar typically provides up to 30 percent of the store's annual electricity requirements.
  • 26 fuel cell installations in the United States, delivering 65 million kilowatt hours of electricity annually. Fuel cells can be sized to provide a wide range of the store's annual electric requirements, but to date we've sized our systems to provide 40-70 percent of the stores' annual electric requirements.
  • We are testing onsite microwind, solar water heating, as well as solar thermal in various markets, including Canada, Chile, China, Mexico and U.S.

2. Utility-scale, offsite generation.

    We changed the way we buy power, extending our contract length, and going directly to the source. Our willingness to sign longer-term power purchase agreements (PPAs of up to 15 years in some markets), enables large-scale renewable energy developers to secure preferred financing, lowering the cost of utility-scale renewable energy projects. This fits our strategy of procuring renewable energy for prices at or below utility rates and, ultimately, we believe will make clean, renewable energy more affordable for everyone. Walmart currently has five utility-scale offsite wind projects in operation or under development in Mexico, the U.S. and the U.K., totaling 470 million kilowatt hours of renewable power annually. Additional details of our large-scale wind projects include:

  • 348 stores in Mexico supplied by wind power through an agreement with Eléctrica del Valle de Mexico via its state-of-the-art wind farm. This clean energy resource currently provides 17 percent of the energy needs of Walmart Mexico and has reduced CO2 emissions by an estimated 137,240 tons annually.
  • 350 stores in Texas receive up to 15 percent of their electricity needs through a four-year agreement to purchase clean energy from Duke Energy's wind farm in Notrees, Texas.
  • 14 stores in Northern Ireland supplied by wind power, with 100 percent of the electricity into those stores both affordable and renewable.

3. Grid-connected and other green power purchases.

In many parts of the world, regulatory barriers prevent Walmart from directly purchasing electricity from wind farms, and other barriers make onsite renewables cost-prohibitive. We work with stakeholders across government, nonprofit and multilateral organizations to make the grid as renewable as possible, as fast as possible. In some cases, promoting affordable renewable power may include participating in utilities' green power purchase programs; in other cases, purchases are made through competitive green power market sources. We have participated in these programs in two markets (Canada and U.S.), resulting in more than 500 million hours of renewable energy annually.


2This definition is an adaptation of definitions from the World Resources Institute (p. 4, http://pdf.wri.org/guide_purchase_green.pdf) and the American Council on Renewable Energy. Walmart's definition is still evolving, in partnership with leading NGOs.


Adding it all up

    According to the United States EPA's Green Power Partnership program, Walmart's California and Texas renewable energy projects alone bring us to be:

  • the second-largest purchaser of green power among U.S. retailers2
  • the second-largest onsite green power generators in the U.S.3
  • the third-largest U.S. green power purchaser in their ranking overall4
  • the third-largest green power purchaser in the Fortune 5005

Even with our demonstrated early leadership, we recognize we have a long way to go to reach our aspirational goal to be supplied by 100 percent renewable energy. When we measure our total renewable energy supply, we look at it two ways:

1. Renewable energy as a portion of our buildings' electricity needs.

This approach is used by most other companies in the EPA Green Power Partnership and reflects the majority of our renewable efforts to date. When we developed our first roof-mounted solar projects in 2007—2008, renewable energy supplied less than 1 percent of our electricity needs. As of 2010, Walmart-driven renewable projects provide about 4 percent annually or, 1.1 billion kilowatt-hours of our buildings' electricity needs. The grid supplies another 18 percent, for a total of 22 percent renewable electricity.

2. Renewable energy as a percentage of our buildings' total energy needs.

This approach is used by most organizations with a global footprint, and includes electricity, natural gas, propane and other building energy sources. As of 2010, the most recent data, renewable energy served 15 percent of our total building energy needs, with about 12 percent coming from the grid and about 3 percent coming from Walmart's renewable projects. Though electricity is our company's largest energy source, natural gas and others are also consequential and we are actively working to reduce our use of those nonrenewable fuels, including energy efficiency initiatives.

Getting to 100 percent

Because of Walmart's global reach, making a meaningful penetration into our goal to be supplied by 100 percent renewable energy relies on the alignment of a number of market conditions, as described below. Some of our markets and/or regions are well suited for maximum renewable penetration, and, in those markets, our percentage of renewable electricity is much higher. For example in Texas and California, Walmart's renewable projects meet 28 percent of our electricity needs (not including grid electricity), and in Mexico, 17 percent of our electricity is served by our renewables projects (not including grid electricity). In many other regions where we operate, the absence of the market conditions described below results in almost 0 percent renewable energy.

To drive a higher volume of renewables, the following nine conditions must exist:

    For all types of renewable projects:

  1. Renewable resource availability. There must be rich wind, solar, geothermal or other renewable resources.
  2. Mature technologies and providers. The technologies — and the companies to install and maintain them — must be available to turn the renewable resource into useable energy.
  3. Finance capital availability. The market must have banks and financial institutions willing and able to lend to project developers. Often, lenders offer lower cost of capital and other preferred finance terms as a result of Walmart's low-risk profile as one of the project partners. In some of our markets, unexpected finance risks — like past currency crises — have made lenders unwilling to finance projects in those markets, especially for utility-scale projects.
  4. Government incentives. In some markets, renewable energy projects are viable without government incentives; however, in many regions, government incentives help make the project viable.
  5. Cost of electricity. Highly subsidized grid electricity costs make renewable energy less attractive.
  6. For offsite utility scale projects:

  7. Favorable regulatory framework. For example, it must be legal for Walmart (or other energy consumers) to directly source electricity from project developers. In some of our markets, our ability to drive scale is diminished because we are not able to sign direct power purchase agreements.
  8. Grid reliability. The electricity must be able to reliably transmit from the project site to our stores.
  9. For onsite distributed generation projects:

  10. Rooftop rights. Installing onsite renewable energy is far more viable when we own the building and have access to the roof, parking lot and other real estate to install systems. Some of our markets lease space in the basement of multistory high-rises, creating both ownership and engineering barriers.
  11. Permitting and regulatory freedom. Many of our attempts to install renewable energy on our roofs, parking lots or land have required significant time working with regulators to manage permitting rules that inadvertently prevent renewable installations.

When the right combination of these nine conditions align, Walmart has the opportunity to do what we do best: leverage our scale, our creativity and our willingness to take risks to drive significant new renewable capacity. In markets where only a few of these nine conditions align, we are far more limited.

Global renewable energy efforts

Mexico

In 2011, Walmart Mexico signed three renewable energy contracts to generate 252 megawatts. This clean energy resource is expected to supply 50 percent of Walmart Mexico's energy needs by 2015, while reducing CO2 emissions by 490,000 additional tons annually. More than 350 of our units utilize renewable energy generated via wind or solar, and additional wind farms and hydroelectric plants are being pursued to cover our remaining 1,600 units.

Canada

In 2011, Walmart Canada installed a rooftop solar generation system at our Kitchener-Waterloo, Ontario, store. The system is expected to reduce annual GHG emissions by 80 tons and generate 450,000 kilowatt hours (kWh) of energy per year, enough to power 39 average-size Canadian households. We also utilize solar power, hydrogen fuel cells and wind turbines at our state-of-the-art fresh food distribution center in Balzac, Alberta. Walmart Canada is one of the largest purchasers of low-emission power through our partnership with Bullfrog Power.

China

In 2011, Walmart China completed the installation of a roof-mounted solar system at its Xiangmihu store in Shenzhen. It marks the first non-state-owned project under China's Golden Sun Solar Program and is the result of four years of preparation by the Walmart China team. The solar installation covers 30 percent of the store's roof space and provides an estimated 18 percent of its electricity needs. This has the potential to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 430 tons annually.

U.K.

ASDA purchases energy through Airtricity Northern Ireland Wind to supply 100 percent of the electricity needs for 14 of our stores in Northern Ireland. We have also taken the global lead at Walmart in the testing and deployment of electric vehicle charging stations. ASDA anticipates installing charging stations at all of its stores by the end of 2012.