What business do retail chains like IKEA have getting into the world of electricity generation?
Years ago, the answer would be “none.” But here we are in 2013, and it’s a different game. In a recent sustainability overview, IKEA announced it has jumped ahead of Costco and Kohl’s Department store to become the second largest private user and producer of solar power in the United States. Now second only to Walmart, the store intends to keep ramping up renewable energy installations until it produces more power than it uses by 2020. The famous maker of inexplicably well-packaged, well-priced designer furniture plans to become a net PRODUCER of renewable energy!
IKEA’s overview states, “Through a mix of solar, wind and geothermal installations, IKEA hopes to produce more energy than it consumes by 2020.”
The company is well on its way. Thirty-nine out of 44 IKEA locations in the United States already have solar installations totaling 34 megawatts of solar power, producing 49 gigawatt hours of electricity. It’s enough to vault the company to its national second place private solar production status. With a massive allocation of $1.8 billion, mostly for solar projects, the furniture retailer is building toward its full-on-renewable goal, aiming to get 70 percent of its power from renewable sources just two years from now in 2015, then on to 100 percent by 2020. Globally, IKEA has a quarter million solar panels and a hundred and ten wind turbines. How many tiny Allen wrenches does it take to install that many solar panels? Ask IKEA.
IKEA’s strides are part of a larger commitment it made in April of this year when it signed onto a Climate Declaration with 32 U.S. companies including Intel, eBay, Starbucks, Nike and others. The joint declaration calls for bolder action and policy by the United States to combat climate change and for increased use of renewable energy, reduced carbon footprint and greater energy efficiency. The signatories assert that addressing climate change is a economic opportunity for the U.S., and they’re leading the charge, showing that renewable energy is a viable, long-term option for businesses around the world.
America’s favorite Swedish (and the world’s largest) designer of stylish, yet affordable, home furnishings and solutions is also helping the East Coast recover from Hurricane Sandy. In addition to donating ten thousand blankets, pillows, washcloths, bath towels and hundreds of essential home furnishing sets like beds and dining room furniture, IKEA is also funding a full-scale “Solar for Sandy” project in New Jersey. The idea is to fund community centers with grid tied backup solar power. What we’ve seen in the case of many natural disasters is that old infrastructures are replaced with exactly the same system and infrastructure. When an area is torn to pieces, why not help the area upgrade to something more modern? Such as solar back up systems?
IKEA isn’t the only company looking to move toward a fully renewable energy future. Walmart and Apple and other major U.S. and global companies are also striving to power their companies entirely with renewable energy. We’re stepping into a new world, and many of the world’s more responsible corporate citizens are leading the charge.