Walmart, the world’s largest retailer, will leverage its scale to bring affordable renewable power to consumers using its experience from the retail industry.

Rahul Raj, director of sustainability and merchandising innovation at, said that the retail giant aspires to 100% renewable power.

“As part of our aspirational goal of being 100% powered by renewable energy we envision a world where people do not have to choose between electricity they can afford and renewable electricity.

“We believe we will make clean, renewable energy more affordable for everyone.

“A new energy future can contribute to every day low costs and enable everyday low prices for our customers. In our minds, cleantech has arrived.”

Walmart serves customers more than 200 million times per week at 10,270 retail outlets in 27 countries and employs more than 2.2 million associates globally, 1.4 million in the United States. Fiscal year 2012 sales reached $444 billion and ranked first on the 2011 Fortune 500 list of the world’s largest companies by revenue.

Fast Movers

Roughly 22% of Walmart’s electricity needs globally are supplied by clean energy sources, Raj told the Cleantech Open Conference in Santa Clara, California. In California, approximately 75% of Walmart owned locations will have rooftop solar installed by the end of 2013, he said.

“Our renewable energies are focused on the development and installation of new renewable energy projects. Driving down the cost of renewable energy, building scale and securing cost-effective, stable energy pricing that meets or beats utility pricing.”

In our minds, cleantech has arrived” – Raj

He said that Walmart believed that nine conditions applied to drive a high volume of renewables, including mature technologies and companies as well as low-cost financing.

“Often lenders will lower the cost of capital and other preferred finance terms as a result of our lower risk profile as one of the project partners. In some of our markets unexpected finance risk like past currency crises have made lenders unwilling to finance projects in those markets especially for utility scale projects.”

But he said that the company’s 100% renewable goal was challenged in some markets by regulatory barriers, which prevented direct power purchase agreements and permitting hurdles.
“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 align we have the opportunity to do what we believe we do best, leverage our scale, our creativity and our willingness to take risks to drive significant new renewable energy capacity.”

Big Numbers to Meet Big Challenges

Rex Northen, executive director of the Cleantech Open, said that the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, Rio +20, had recognised the need for “bottom up entrepreneurship” in cleantech to stimulate economic recovery and address climate change and energy poverty.

Read more about Rio Plus 20 here.

“There is a focus on harnessing bottom up entrepreneurship to serve 1.3 billion people without access to adequate energy,” he said. “That is not the big news that everybody is looking for but for us it’s really good news.”

Despite challenges in the global economy and the cleantech sector, Cleantech Open panellists suggested that the volumes of capital invested alone indicated recognition of the opportunities in clean energy.

In his summary remarks, Jeffrey Jacobs, Chevron Technology Venture’s vice president, said that the $1 trillion invested since 1992 “is a big number”.

“Therein provides one potential answer to the question: has cleantech arrived? To attract that kind of money that much investment, people clearly recognise the opportunity.

“But the answer to that question can also vary depending on what sector you look at and what part of the value chain you occupy within cleantech. In the solar space as the integrator and consumer of product such as solar that [Chevron] uses in a beneficial re-use capacity we’re thrilled with the arrival and development of cleantech.

Read more about oil company leadership in cleantech here.

“However, if you happen to be a manufacturer of that technology you may be less than pleased with the returns you’re seeing at this moment.”