US online retail giant Amazon led the corporate renewables parade again last year accounting for over 20% of a record 31.1GW of clean-power purchase deals inked by private companies around the world, according to latest figures from BloombergNEF (BNEF).

Amazon was the biggest single buyer globally of clean energy by some margin, announcing 44 offsite power purchase agreements (PPAs) in 2021 totalling 6.2GW, taking its total clean energy PPA capacity to 13.9GW and making its clean energy portfolio the12th largest in the world among all types of companies just ahead of French utility EDF, said BNEF in its 1H 2022 Corporate Energy Market Outlook.

Big Tech titans Microsoft and Meta placed second and third among renewables-buying corporates, with 8.9GW and 8GW, respectively, said the analyst group, noting that previous corporate clean-energy title holder, Google, had dropped out of the race, having turned its attention “more to sourcing 24/7 carbon-free power through methods outside of PPAs”.

Helen Dewhurst, senior associate at BNEF, stated: “The clean energy portfolios of Big Tech companies now rival those of the world’s biggest utilities. Big Tech faces mounting pressure from investors to decarbonise and this is reflected in the steep increase in clean energy volumes purchased. The PPAs inked in previous years pale in comparison to the portfolios announced in 2021."

Corporate PPAs were up nearly 24% in 2021 from the previous year’s record of 25.1GW, supercharged by the more than two-thirds of the total annual purchasing (65%) that occurred in the US. In a sector-by-sector break-out, the world largest technology companies collectively signed over half of the deals, which, by BNEF’s count, involved more than 137 corporations in 32 different countries.

Total signed volumes linked to corporate PPAs came in equal to more than 10% of all the renewable energy capacity added globally last year, “showing the impact corporate sustainability pledges are having” on clean energy build, according to Kyle Harrison, BNEF’s head of sustainability research.

“It is no longer a matter of whether corporate clean energy procurement will grow each year, it’s a matter of how much. More corporations are making new sustainability commitments, costs for renewables are plummeting and regulators around the world are slowly coming around to the fact that clean energy might be a silver bullet in the decarbonisation of the private sector,” he said.

The US accounted for 17GW of corporate PPAs finalised in 2021; Europe 8.7GW, powered-up by “big years” from Spain and the Nordics; and Asia 2GW.

Among renewable energy producers, the US’ AES sold more clean energy to corporations than any other developer globally, at just under 3GW, via deals on home soil as well as in Brazil, Panama and Chile. France’s Engie meanwhile signed more than 2.1GW of PPAs, including one of 350MW with Amazon for an unnamed offshore wind farm off Scoltland.

“One of the secrets of success for both companies is that they have the backing of a large utility to support their development arms. This led to Orsted (1.3GW), Vattenfall (0.8GW) and NextEra (0.7GW), all utilities, also having big years in 2021. These companies sell clean energy to corporations through mechanisms other than PPAs as well,” said BNEF.

The analyst spotlighted corporate sustainability commitments as “still a driving force” behind the clean energy purchases, with 67 companies pledging to offset 100% of their electricity demand with renewables energy via membership in the RE100, a campaign that now has to 355 members across 25 countries that collectively consume 363TWh a year.

BNEF estimates that the current RE100 membership will need to purchase an additional 246TWh of clean electricity in 2030 to meet their targets.