Verizon announced Monday it will go carbon-neutral by 2035 for Scope 1 and 2 emissions, encompassing direct emissions and those from the purchase of energy.
The commitment is the third in a “trifecta” of recent corporate sustainability announcements, said Jim Gowen, the company’s chief of sustainability. In February, Verizon announced the creation of a $1 billion green bond program, with proceeds going to projects such as energy efficiency, renewable energy and other sustainability efforts. In December, the company pledged to reach 50 percent renewable energy by 2025.
Gowen said Verizon is in the midst of a sustainability evolution, pushed along by global moves toward more environmentally friendly business practices and better economics for clean energy technologies.
But many of the company’s peers in the wireless space have been quicker on the uptake: In 2018 T-Mobile committed to 100 percent renewables by 2021, and the Renewable Energy Buyers Alliance ranked AT&T second in 2018 for corporate renewables deals. Last year AT&T procured 820 megawatts of wind.
Verizon said its ready to compete with those commitments, even as it expands its 5G network.
"When Verizon does things...we go all in," said Gowen. "We will continue to push the needle."
To achieve its carbon-neutrality target, Verizon will need to significantly raise its current goal of 50 percent renewables by 2025. The wireless company also has a long way to go to reach that target: According to Gowen, onsite renewable generation now makes up less than 3 percent of the company’s consumption.
Though Gowen declined to offer specific details about the company’s coming clean energy commitments, he said more “significant” announcements are to come in the next year.
But according to the company, because its 50 percent by 2025 goal encompasses Verizon's entire operation — the company has both a wireless and wireline business — the target "will allow us to more than cover 100 percent of Verizon Wireless' consumption."
Back in 2013, Verizon dropped $100 million into solar and natural-gas fuel cells. In 2016 the company committed to another 24 megawatts of onsite projects by 2025. Now, Gowen said Verizon is investigating wind and other onsite options as well as power-purchase agreements and virtual PPAs.
Verizon may also consider renewable energy credits, though Gowen said they’re not a top priority. But when it comes to meeting the 2035 goal, he said, “nothing is off the table” (aside from fuel cells, which won’t count toward the target).
“The way we’re looking at this is it is the right thing to do," said Gowen. "We’re starting from that premise and then we’re going into the business case.”
But like many companies investing more in clean energy, Verizon did emphasize that the business case needs to be there.
“I do want to be clear: We don’t do anything at Verizon without a business case,” said Gowen. “We are a for-profit. We’re going to be looking where business case make sense, where incentives make sense and where we can strike the right business relationship.”
Verizon will be looking at sites that can power its larger locations in states like New Jersey and California, which also happen to have healthy renewables incentives.
If wireless companies continue making such clean energy commitments, the implications would be wide-reaching. According to Verizon, more than 92 percent of the company’s emissions come from electricity that powers its wireless networks, which fits within Scope 1 and 2 emissions.