Starbucks taps Seattle startup LevelTen in first-of-its-kind clean energy deal

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Starbucks made its first direct investment in a solar farm in 2017. (Starbucks Photo)

Starbucks has struck a first-of-its-kind clean energy deal that will generate enough power to run 3,000 of its stores by 2021. To pull it off, the coffee giant worked with green energy marketplace LevelTen Energy to purchase stakes in two solar and one wind project across North Carolina, Oklahoma and Texas.

Starbucks has invested in renewable resources since 2005 and reached its goal of using 100 percent renewable electricity to power its stores in 2015. Two years ago, the company took its first step into directly investing in renewables with a 260-acre solar plant in North Carolina that creates enough electricity to power 600 stores.

The LevelTen deal represents a new approach to clean energy investments. Rather than signing up as the sole purchaser of electricity, as it did in the North Carolina deal, Starbucks owns a fraction of several projects that together create a portfolio.

The new model “opens the door for many new buyers to cost-effectively source smaller amounts of renewable energy,” Patrick Leonard, an energy manager for Starbucks, said in a statement.

LevelTen’s platform aims to make it easier for corporate buyers to shop around for clean energy projects. For Starbucks, spreading cash across several projects reduces the overall risk by diversifying a portfolio, much like any other investment. The added peace of mind could attract more companies to directly purchase renewable energy.

Earlier this week, LevelTen raised $20.5 million to fuel the growth of its platform and expand its presence in North America and Europe.

Sustainability goals are a mainstay of corporate juggernauts based in the Pacific Northwest. Amazon recently announced its “shipment zero” initiative, which aims to get half of its package deliveries to a standard of net zero carbon by 2030. T-Mobile has pledged to power its Seattle-area HQ entirely with renewable energy by 2021. And Microsoft last year completed the largest corporate purchase of solar energy ever in the U.S.

Starbucks has also announced a phase-out of plastic straws and pledged to build and operate 10,000 “greener stores” by 2025.

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