CEBA Connect Spring Summit 2024: Cleartrace’s Insights and Highlights

Attending the Clean Energy Buyer’s Association (CEBA) Connect: Spring Summit 2024 was, as always, an insightful and engaging experience. Membership to CEBA and this event in particular is a no brainer for any corporate who is buying renewable energy. It is an opportunity to connect with key players in the renewable energy sector, network with peers, discuss emerging trends, and understand market dynamics. Here is a detailed look at the conference, key themes, and our takeaways that we felt might be helpful for any corporate clean energy buyer or energy supplier that missed the Summit.

Event Overview

The CEBA Connect: Spring Summit serves as a pivotal gathering for stakeholders in the renewable energy sector. This year’s summit brought together corporate buyers, energy suppliers, service providers, and policy influencers to discuss the future of clean energy procurement and the strategies to overcome current market challenges.

Who Was in Attendance

The summit featured a diverse mix of attendees from across the energy ecosystem. Representatives from major corporations such as Rivian, Target, Meta, Toyota, Equinix, and Amazon (and many more) were present, alongside other key players in renewable energy supply and advisory services. However, proper utility representation was notably lacking, highlighting a gap in the discussions that CEBA will need to address in future events. There were a number of “prospective” corporate members that were considering joining CEBA in attendance, so this was a positive signal as CEBA looks to grow and expand the impact it makes in the energy transition.

CEBA News and Announcements

This year’s summit introduced Rich Powell as CEBA’s new CEO. With a background in public policy from Washington, D.C., Powell aims to steer CEBA through its organizational changes and address the growing complaints about its membership model. This transition period is critical as CEBA seeks to enhance its influence and effectiveness in advocating for clean energy.

Highlights and Themes from the Conference

Before digging into notes on specific sessions, there were some core themes that surfaced throughout the conference, including during sessions and sidebar conversations.

Market Tensions and Constraints

One of the dominant themes at the summit was the market’s current tension and anxiety. High power prices, limited supply, and evolving regulations create significant headwinds for buyers. The anticipated load growth driven by cloud computing and artificial intelligence (AI), reshoring manufacturing, electric vehicle (EV) charging, and building electrification adds to these challenges. Many organizations, having set their renewable energy goals years ago, now face unexpected hurdles in achieving them, and the deadlines for meeting 2025 and 2030 goals are fast approaching.

Hidden Demand

Despite these constraints, there is a significant hidden demand for renewable energy. Corporate buyers are more ambitious than ever, driven by looming targets for 2025 and beyond. The challenge lies in matching this demand with a constrained supply and navigating the complexities of project timing, grid interconnection, and equipment supply.

Community and Collaboration

The need for collaboration was a recurring theme. From corporate buyers to energy suppliers, the consensus was clear: achieving decarbonization goals requires a community-driven approach. Innovations in community solar projects and partnerships that incorporate social and environmental benefits were highlighted as critical to moving forward.

eGRID Going NextGen

Thanks to funding from the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), the Energy Information Administration (EIA) and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) are working hard and collaboratively to upgrade to improve timing of delivery (reduce lag time between vintage and publication) of emissions and generation resource integrated database (eGRID) emission factors to near real time, improve data quality across many facets, and improve data access through API for integration into various products. This is very exciting news for those pushing for greater transparency in the grid and what’s being consumed on a locational and temporal basis. 

Key Takeaways from Selected Sessions

With a packed content agenda, our team of two was not able to attend every session. We tried to prioritize sessions with topics most relevant to our client base. Please find some notes on specific sessions below. 

Decarbonization Approaches: 24/7 Clean Energy and Emissions First

During the Conversation Tables session, where attendees have a chance to rotate through topical conversation round tables by choosing 3 topics from a list of 15+, the table hosted by Cleartrace titled “Decarbonization Approaches: 24/7 Clean Energy and Emissions First” was one of the most attended and debated sessions. Despite some tensions, this topic drew a diverse mix of stakeholders, including energy suppliers, corporate buyers, and service providers. The majority leaned towards the Emissions First approach, valuing its inclusivity and alignment with community and social elements, as well as its practicality in cleaning up dirtier grids.

Even without strict 24/7 carbon free energy (CFE) targets, there was a strong desire among attendees for more granular data to track progress against both goals and contracts. Suppliers in attendance are actively looking to diversify their product offerings and meet customers where they are with respect to procurement initiatives and data needs. With varying views and perspectives, attendees universally underscored the importance of detailed, transparent data in driving decarbonization efforts and strategy.

Energy Fundamentals

In this session, speakers emphasized that the right time to buy renewable energy is when organizations are ready. Preparation involves lining up trusted advisors, understanding transaction options, and educating stakeholders. The process requires patience, as even ready-to-transact buyers must navigate developer timelines and market conditions. Stakeholder education emerged as essential, with a broad ecosystem of lawyers, project developers, buyers, intermediaries, and advisors playing crucial roles in closing deals.

State of the (Energy) Market (for Corporate Buyers)

The first quarter of 2024 saw a strong start, with 3.6 GW of new clean energy contracts, reflecting increased corporate buyer activity. Energy suppliers are developing more projects, anticipating ambitious 2025 targets. Attendees discussed how considerations now extend beyond price and volume to include community, social, and environmental impacts. Innovations in procurement strategies and increased ambition across sectors indicate a dynamic and evolving market.

Scope 3 Attestation: Whose Scope is it Anyway? 

This session explored the complexities of boundary setting for Scope 2 and Scope 3 greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions quantification and reporting and the shared responsibilities across the supply chain. As organizations strive for comprehensive decarbonization, clear guidelines and collaboration are necessary to accurately account for and reduce Scope 3 emissions. Interestingly, the general point of agreement amongst the panelists (including Amazon, Host Hotels, and Iron Mountain Data Centers) and several related audience members was that they all saw things slightly differently, thus declaring different boundaries. As a result, they all welcomed more standards that made it easier to work interoperability to solve problems together and in the process avoid double counting or double greening, etc.  

Final Thoughts

The CEBA Connect Spring Summit 2024 provided Cleartrace with valuable insights into the current complexities in renewable energy procurement process in light of market conditions. We engaged with key stakeholders, discussed the market’s current state, and explored innovative approaches to decarbonization. The summit reaffirmed the importance of granular data, community collaboration, and a proactive approach to overcoming market challenges. As Cleartrace continues to develop our platform, these insights will guide us in supporting our customers and partners on their clean energy journeys. If you have any questions regarding the conference as a whole or specific sessions, we would be happy to set up time for a more in-depth debrief.

Mark your 2025 calendars for the 2025 Summit which will be held in Minneapolis, MN (dates to be announced as of time of publishing).