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The role of renewable energy in T-Mobile’s business strategy

Sustainability is becoming a core focus of global businesses, both to ensure that companies minimize their environmental impact and also to benefit long-term growth. T-Mobile adopted renewable energy as part of its sustainability strategy back in 2018 and has committed to use 100% renewable energy by 2021. To help achieve its ambitious target, T-Mobile partnered with Enel Green Power to purchase 160 megawatts of capacity from the Red Dirt wind project in Oklahoma: enough renewable energy to power more than 97,000 U.S. households.

Enel Green Power sat down with T-Mobile’s Director of Sustainability & Facilities Procurement, Chad Wilkerson, to learn more about the importance of renewable energy and how this partnership has impacted its business.

Can you provide a brief overview of T-Mobile’s sustainability strategy? How does renewable energy play into T-Mobile’s sustainability goals?

T-Mobile is taking a portfolio approach to our sustainability strategy. We are focusing on both reducing our carbon footprint through recycling and composting, planting trees, and cutting back on printing and paper billing, plus increasing our energy efficiency within our business and network operations. This includes using LED lightbulbs, smart thermostats, retrofitting our HVAC equipment and increasing the efficiency of our network.

The second thing we’re focused on is powering 100% of our business and operations with renewable energy by 2021! We’re doing this through major long-term Power Purchase Agreements that allow new wind and solar farms to be built across the country. This not only provides new jobs and investment into rural areas, which we’re pleased to support, but it has also brought nearly 3.3 million MWh of green energy to the grid which will remove over 1.3M tons of climate change-causing CO2 out of the air every year.

T-Mobile’s goal is to achieve 100% renewable energy for all of its operations by 2021: a faster timeline than most of its competitors. What has been the response from T-Mobile’s customers, employees and investors?

Our customers, employees and investors already expect us to shake up the status quo and go all in on everything we do – that is what we are known for as the Un-carrier. The response has been overwhelmingly positive, especially from employees who have told us how proud they are to work for a company that goes big for the community and the planet.

How does T-Mobile’s PPA with Enel Green Power at Red Dirt help advance the company’s sustainability strategy?

Red Dirt was our first wind farm to come online and Enel Green Power was great to work with, especially as we moved through the steep learning curve that comes with a first time major renewable energy purchase agreement. As a 60,000-acre wind farm producing 650,000 MWh of energy for us annually, this project was a huge first step toward reaching our 100% renewable energy goal in only three years – which we’re on track to do.

What types of benefits are you seeing from making strong commitments around sustainability and renewable energy? Is this having a positive impact on your business?

We’re decreasing our carbon footprint which is the most important thing. In the long term, weather and climate change events have an impact on our network and the communities we serve – flooding, hurricanes, tornadoes, all directly affect our business and our customers. Our commitment to sustainability is an investment in the long-term viability of our business, our employees, and the communities we serve – it’s a win, win, win.  

Were there any misconceptions about renewable energy that you had before beginning to work with Enel Green Power?

We learned very quickly that it was incredibly important for us to surround ourselves with experienced partners and consultants – we had to build our team of experts. I think our finance team was also pleasantly surprised just how cost effective the long term PPAs were as well; the fact that renewable energy would be both sustainable for our budget and our planet was great.

Enel Green Power worked with T-Mobile to identify a unique virtual power purchase agreement (VPPA), or renewable energy financial contract, that best fits the company’s needs. What were some of the challenges that T-Mobile presented, and how did the PPA help to cater to T-Mobile specifically?

T-Mobile has a large number of locations spread across the country with very differing energy needs. Space constraints, local grid conditions, or the availability of nearby renewable generation sources made it difficult to spur new renewable production in both an efficient and cost-effective way. The PPA solved those issues for us, while allowing us to invest in projects that would bring additional renewable energy to the grid – advancing the renewable industry and covering the footprint of many of our stores and offices.

Some retail companies have faced challenges around the inability to control electricity sources in rented spaces, such as stores in malls or large shopping centers. Does T-Mobile’s renewable energy PPA help solve these challenges with its retail footprint?

There are some inherent challenges with a rental model – we can’t just install rooftop solar panels on our stores or upgrade an HVAC in rented space within a mall – it’s highly dependent on the location owner and services available in the area. The large scale PPAs are a great way for us to cover our entire energy footprint with renewable energy, including towers across the US and stores in rented spaces, without needing to own our spaces to do it. 

How did you choose Enel Green Power and Red Dirt Wind Farm?

We had dozens of responses to our original RFP – it was a very competitive process and we prioritized organizations that both met the criteria and came to us with innovative solutions. We were looking for organizations that were willing to go above and beyond just like T-Mobile. 

What advice would you give to other companies that are just starting out on their path to sustainability?

Having a village of experts was critical to our success – there is a steep learning curve to this work. But the work is worth it. As a human, you’ll feel good about it and as a business, you’ll contribute to something that will ultimately have a positive effect on the company and your customers down the road

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