IKEA to spend £1.5 billion on renewables

It was announced this week that IKEA, the world’s largest furniture retailer, is purchasing the 7.65MW Carrickeeny wind farm located in north-west Ireland.

The purchase is part of the company’s renewable energy program which is aiming to invest £1.5 billion in renewable energy developments by 2015. The program is part of a larger drive to ensure that all of the energy used in IKEA’s stores will be generated from renewable technologies by 2020.

The wind farm is due to be operational by early 2014 and it is at this point at which the purchase will be completed. Development is currently being handled by renewable energy company Mainstream Renewables. The electricity produced will be used to power IKEA’s stores in both Belfast and Dublin. The wind farm is expected to generate enough energy to power 5,500 homes annually.

IKEA currently operates and owns 137 turbines across the globe. Wind farms have already been purchased in the United Kingdom, Germany, France, Poland, Denmark and Sweden. Solar panel arrays have also been installed on the roofs of a number of their stores worldwide.

The ultimate aim of IKEA’s program is energy independence. Earlier this year the company’s Chief Sustainability Officer Steve Howard outlined the corporate strategy during an online seminar:

“”We have made a commitment to go 100% powered by renewable energy by 2020, but not just buying it off the grid or through green certificates; we said we will own our renewable energy. We have a subsidiary target of 70% by 2013, and are at a little over 34% today. Over the last couple of years we have installed over 300,000 solar panels on our stores and we have invested in wind farms; we now own 126 wind turbines in 5 countries. […] We have provisioned that by about 2025 we will invest about 1.5 billion pounds in renewables.”

The progress being made by the company can be seen in the fact that in 2011 it was reported that 12% of the energy being used in their stores came from renewable sources. The fact that a further 20% of their energy being generated from renewable technologies was achieved within 12 months indicates the seriousness with which IKEA is pursuing their target. It also gives an indication of the strides being made in the wind power industry more generally.

Joanna Yarrow, Head of Sustainability for IKEA UK and Ireland made the following comment at the announcement of the purchase:

“Our investments in renewable energy not only help to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from our operations in Ireland, but also, together with our energy efficiency efforts, help to control our electricity costs so we can pass any benefits to our customers by continuing to offer high quality home furnishings at low prices. Companies, individuals or governments – we all have responsibility to address the resource dilemma and commit to a more sustainable future.

“Producing our own, affordable, renewable electricity gets us one step closer to becoming completely energy independent by 2020, while ensuring our commercial success.”

Of course, one of the major benefits of pursuing such a target for IKEA is that they are ensuring that they are insulated from rising fossil fuel prices; a point made by Mainstream Power’s Chief Executive Eddie O’Connor:

“We are being approached by a growing number of energy-intensive corporations in the retail, IT and mining sectors that want to invest in our large portfolio of wind and solar plant being developed across four continents. Owning wind and solar plant makes a lot of sense for them on a number of levels.

“As the cost of the fuel is free the more of it they have the more stability and certainty they have in relation to their energy costs in the long term. On top of that, the more forward-thinking corporations are investing in wind and solar energy as part of their sustainability strategy, and IKEA is a fantastic example of this.”

It should be pointed out that it is not just multi-national corporations such as IKEA which are ensuring that the rising cost of fuel fossil imports are not impacting upon business. Companies, across the UK, large and small, are investing in renewable energy developments to safeguard their businesses. Whether it be through the example given here, purchasing a large-scale wind farm, or investing in small and medium scale wind projects such as those developed by ourselves at Intelligent Land Investments (Renewable Energy). The opportunities presented by renewable energy are there to be seized.

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