What can other companies learn from Facebook's efforts?
BH: We are fortunate at Facebook to have leadership that is strongly committed to our renewable energy goals. The advice we would share is first, don't give up, and second, work to make sure your entire organization is on board. It takes time and hard work to help everyone around you overcome preconceptions about renewable energy that aren't necessarily true.
We also work to ensure other companies can leverage our work in this field. For example, we developed new green tariffs, which essentially are mechanisms for customers to buy green power where you couldn't previously. In six states, Facebook has partnered with utilities and local stakeholders to develop and implement new green tariffs. We've been happy to see other companies have used these same tariffs to source their own green energy, and other states and utilities have used our model to attract business all across the country.
What have you learned since Facebook made this commitment?
BH: Back in 2011, Facebook became one of the first tech companies to publicly commit to becoming 100 percent supported by renewable energy. That was a lifetime ago for our company, and we had no idea how fast we'd grow. We knew we had to build a deep bench of expertise to make this a reality. We then let our team do what it does best: partner with others to develop a new way of doing business in the energy sector. We sought out renewable developers and utilities that were also willing to explore innovative solutions. One thing we have learned is that for every time someone said that it can't be done, we've embraced the challenge and found a way. The greatest example of this effort was breaking through for our Georgia data center, where we helped jump-start the solar energy market. We focused on finding alternative solutions and new partners that were committed to helping us access that market, and we are now one of the largest purchasers of renewable energy in Georgia.
What part of this project are you proudest of?
BH: While we are very excited about meeting our own goals, our team is most proud of how Facebook is moving markets to embrace renewable energy. We're proud to see other companies use our green tariff approach to meet their own energy needs. We've watched utilities, like in Nebraska, be surprised by the pricing for renewable energy and adopt new strategies to incorporate more renewable energy for their entire customer population. We've watched utilities we haven't even worked with yet see the business opportunity they're missing and adopt new options for customer choice, as recently occurred in Georgia. We're also excited to help jump-start renewable energy efforts in areas where it hadn't been a major focus. For example, when we announced our solar projects with Tennessee Valley Authority to support our Huntsville Data Center, they were the largest solar projects ever contracted in Tennessee and Alabama. And our effort to create a green tariff with TVA allowed many other companies to follow our lead.
When other companies reach out to us to understand how we're undertaking our renewable strategy, we gladly take the time to show our playbook. This isn't a competitive secret, but an invitation for everyone to join us. We want nothing more than to see everyone make a renewable commitment as strong as ours. It's one of the core values that we start with when we kick off discussions with utilities: We want to create solutions that other customers are able to use, too. We seize on opportunities to share, which is why we were founding members of the Renewable Energy Buyers Association, a forum for companies to share ideas and learn from one another as to how to make renewable energy buying easier. By confronting the challenge of climate change with renewable purchasing, we're able to truly move the market in an important positive direction.
What are some of the biggest remaining challenges to getting to 100 percent? How do you plan to tackle them?
BH: Renewable energy projects require a lot of work from a lot of people — the developer, the host utility, the construction team, and the local community — so that's a huge team that has to come together to ensure that the project can be completed to meet our renewable goals. At the same time, Facebook's infrastructure is continuing to grow, and the challenge will be to continue to stay ahead of this growth as these renewable energy resources are being completed. We have a plan, but we need to make sure we continue to execute at a high level.