US software giant Salesforce has signed an agreement with renewables aggregator Powertrust to purchase distributed renewable energy from new projects built through a global network of small-scale developers in emerging markets.  

Salesforce – which committed to match 100% of the electricity it uses with renewable energy in 2021 – has acquired 35,000 megawatt-hours (MWh) per year of distributed renewable energy over eight years from 2023. The agreement will generate up to $65m of investment in new solar capacity, avoiding more than 50,000 tonnes of CO2 emissions each year and providing thousands of people with access to electricity for the first time, said Powertrust in a statement. 

An off-grid solar project in sub-Saharan Africa. (Photo by Sebastian Noethlichs via Shutterstock)

The portfolio covers Brazil, India, Ghana and South East Asia, and is aggregated from solar projects powering hospitals, farms or schools. “Nearly 95% of corporate renewable energy purchases today take place in North America and Europe,” said Megan Lorenzen, head of power sector decarbonisation at Salesforce. “We need to ensure the rest of the world isn’t left behind.”

Using Powertrust’s digital platform, the projects will be sourced and certified via the newly launched distributed renewable energy certificates (D-REC) standard. D-REC is a new not-for-profit initiative to deliver internationally recognised guarantees of origin for distributed renewable energy.

D-RECs do not rely on utility-level grid connectivity, operating instead at a regional and localised off-grid level to deliver rural electrification, traceability, bespoke solutions and heightened social impact – particularly geared towards emerging markets. The non-profit recently secured 300,000MWh in annual and multi-year deals in 2022.

“Companies across the globe have an appetite for high-impact renewable energy purchases and can’t find the supply they need,” said Powertrust CEO Nick Fedorkiw in a statement. “Now, as demonstrated by Salesforce, companies can open up new sources of supply while maximising social impact.”