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Renewables: Corporate Energy Sourcing and Sustainability

Companies across industries are evaluating their environmental risk and impact and are setting ambitious sustainability targets. Strategic first-movers are setting goals to become “carbon negative” or “resource positive” - goals intended to reverse and restore their environmental impact.

Others are setting equally ambitious targets to become carbon neutral, use clean energy, electrify their fleets, and reuse materials, goals that require sustainable practices within their companies and supply chains. Achieving these bold targets raises unique legal issues and requires thought leadership by the corporations and their counsel.

Our team has a well-established reputation for thought leadership and unmatched experience in corporate renewable energy procurement. Additionally, we have deep global experience in the full range of legal issues that companies face as they tackle ambitious sustainability goals, including environmental stewardship and compliance, ethical supply chains, corporate social responsibility reporting, ethical investing, and carbon markets. We understand that aggressive sustainability goals require innovative legal advice.

Corporate Energy Sourcing

We are deeply immersed in the corporate energy procurement market and has a well-established reputation for thought leadership in buy-side transactions for corporate purchasers. Few, if any, law firms can match our firm’s experience negotiating corporate buy-side renewable power purchase agreements. Our renewables team consists of lawyers worldwide and a globally integrated Corporate Energy Sourcing initiative that ensures our renewables lawyers are constantly sharing and innovating deal structures to meet our corporate clients’ needs. Our renewable energy team structured some of the first large-scale corporate renewable energy purchase agreements in the United States, and since then has negotiated thousands of MW of corporate renewable energy power purchase agreements, both physically and financially settled, and on both the buy and sell side of the transactions. We represent a wide range of clients in the purchase and sale of renewable energy, renewable energy credits (RECs) or certificates, verified emissions reduction certificates, emissions allowances, and other environmental trading products.

Our lawyers help savvy companies develop and execute the energy strategies necessary to meet their sustainability goals and achieve competitive advantage in today’s marketplace. Whether a corporate client seeks primarily to lower its energy costs, minimize its exposure to volatile energy prices, stabilize the reliability of its energy supply, meet emissions reduction goals through the purchase of renewable energy, or even generate potential additional revenue streams from sales of renewable energy, we can help.

Companies and consumers are increasingly focused on how renewable energy targets are met, so for most corporate buyers, simply shopping for low cost renewable energy attributes such as unbundled RECs is no longer a viable strategy. As a result, clean energy procurement methods have shifted dramatically, reflecting companies’ desire to show a more tangible connection to the underlying renewable projects, to support a clear claim for “additionality”—that the company’s purchase of renewable energy facilitated the construction of a new renewable generation facility.

Off-site power purchase agreements (PPAs) present an opportunity for corporate energy purchasers to meet their internal sustainability goals efficiently and effectively. Corporate purchasers that have single large loads, such as data centers, and that are able to satisfy the applicable regulatory requirements, may prefer to purchase the physical output of utility-scale renewable energy projects. Other corporate purchasers, including purchasers that operate retail chains or office facilities in numerous or widespread locations, may not have an ability to use the physical energy output of a renewable energy project, and may therefore prefer to purchase the renewable energy attributes of a project under an alternate financially settled arrangement known as a virtual or synthetic power purchase agreement.

Whatever form these power purchase transactions take, they are complex, and require careful consideration of a wide range of issues, including potential regulation under the swaps provisions of Title VII of the Dodd-Frank Act and Federal Trade Commission (FTC) limitations on green claims related to the purchases. Our experience addressing the FTC, Dodd-Frank, accounting, and other operational or REC-related issues that arise in the context of physical and virtual corporate energy purchases allows us to structure agreements that meet not only the sustainability goals, but also the financial and other organizational needs of corporate energy customers.

In addition to signing PPAs, companies are increasingly turning to their utilities to provide access to renewable energy. Seventy-eight companies have signed the Renewable Energy Buyers’ Principles, establishing parameters for utilities regarding what industry-leading multinational companies are seeking when buying renewable energy from the grid. There are now over a dozen green-tariff programs in the United States allowing customers to purchase large-scale renewable energy over the grid, with the majority of these tariffs adopted in the last year. However, participation in these programs is complex, and is still unavailable in many areas. The process for a large-load customer to change its relationship with its incumbent utility to allow access to renewable energy is lengthy and involves careful consideration of economic, regulatory, and political implications. Our team offers a deep understanding of utility regulatory frameworks, operations, and business models, enabling us to effectively advise on green tariffs, direct access, and other innovative utility-provided options.

A Focus on Sustainability and Climate Change

As our linear economy transitions into a circular economy, the political, business, and regulatory responses to climate change are quickly evolving in regional, national, and international forums, and demand agile, integrated responses across legal disciplines. We bring our clients the multidisciplinary approach necessary to understand and address the complex challenges and emerging opportunities.

In the face of global diminishing natural resources and consumer demand for change, we can help you achieve your global sustainability goals while growing your business and adding value. Our lawyers help clients address issues around environmental, social, and governance (ESG); corporate social responsibility (CSR); supply and value chain management; climate change; sea level rise; carbon emissions and trading; clean technology; alternative energy; sustainable development; recycling and packaging; and environmental stewardship. Additionally, our lawyers routinely assist public companies in evaluating and disclosing material risks posed by climate change in required regulatory filings.

Our team members pull their knowledge from a wide range of experience and include former U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Department of Justice, and state environmental officials; leaders in trade and legal associations working on climate change and sustainability issues worldwide; and former in-house counsel for some of the largest traditional and innovative energy companies in the world.

The group has completed over 300 regulatory, transactional, financing, intellectual property, and real estate matters for companies, nonprofits, and public agencies engaged in greenhouse gas mitigation, carbon trading, and renewable energy projects.

Ethical Supply Chain

Managing supply chain risks in a globalized economy is challenging for any business, but it is particularly difficult for multinational corporations with complex, multilayered supply chains and sustainability goals. Monitoring these vast and intricate webs of suppliers for unethical behavior like environmental noncompliance, human trafficking, forced labor, and other human rights abuses is an increasingly daunting task. Failing to foresee and neutralize these risks can result in severe consequences, ranging from a damaged image to criminal penalties.

To help our clients navigate these risks, we developed an array of due diligence and compliance tools for maintaining global ethical supply chains and formed a Global Ethical Supply Chain Task Force made up of lawyers strategically located in global compliance hot spots throughout the world. 

Corporate Social Responsibility Reporting

Our lawyers offer legal support related to compliance, tracking, and reporting of sustainability goals and metrics in compliance with programs and guidelines set out by non-governmental organizations, state or federal legislation, and other governmental organizations. We have assisted clients in complying with standards set forth by the Global Reporting Initiative, the U.S. Federal Trade Commission’s “Green Guides,” the United Nations Global Compact Index, the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, the Sustainability Accounting Standards Board, ISO 26000, and others.

We draw on a range of areas, including corporate, securities, environmental, energy, financing, intellectual property, international law, public/municipal finance, public policy, real estate, construction, and tax. Our global team hails from the firm’s offices across the United States, Asia, Europe, and the Middle East.

Environmental, Social, and Governance Investments

Increasingly, forward-thinking investors weigh the ESG risks associated with potential investments and strive to make investments that are consistent with their financial returns and social and environmental goals. Our lawyers are at the forefront of ESG investing and routinely assist investors in performing the due diligence necessary to ensure that their ESG investing goals are met.

Other capabilities that help our clients achieve their sustainability goals include:

  • Greenhouse Gas Emission Mitigation
    • Greenhouse gas reduction and mitigation plans
    • Carbon offset and sequestration plans
  • Project Development and Financing
    • Project financing and development
    • Transmission infrastructure projects
    • Facility siting and permitting
    • Engineering, procurement, and construction agreements
  • Corporate Governance
    • General corporate governance issues
    • Securities and Exchange Commission compliance and disclosure
  • Sustainable Development
    • "Green" leasing and construction
    • LEED compliance
    • Related real estate matters
  • Transactions and Lending
    • Licensing, joint venture, and mergers and acquisitions
    • International transactions
    • Due diligence
    • Risk analysis for financial institutions and investors
    • Government contracts
    • Private equity and venture capital investments
  • Tax Incentives and Credits
    • Green tags, carbon credits, and renewable energy credits
    • Carbon trading
    • Tax analysis
  • Federal and State Regulatory Compliance
    • “Green” claims compliance
  • Public Policy and Government Funding
    • Appropriations, grants, and subsidies
    • Municipal finance and public-private partnerships
    • Lobbying and government affairs
    • Monitoring and analysis
  • Patents for Clean Technology
    • Patent prosecution
    • Technology transfer and licensing
    • Risk analysis for investors
  • Litigation
    • Construction contracting litigation
    • Insurance coverage issues
    • Regulatory rulemaking and related litigation
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