Author: Amy Haddon has been with Renewable Choice Energy since 2007, and has been instrumental in the success the company celebrates today.
In 2001, the U.S. renewable energy market was still in its infancy. It was pre-Inconvenient Truth, pre-climate marches, and pre-Paris Agreement. The price for solar and wind were still exorbitant, out of reach for all but the most bullish environmentalists. Congress had implemented renewable energy incentives in the early 1990’s, and a few forward-thinking states had deregulated energy markets that accommodated renewable energy projects. But, combined, non-hydro renewables made up less than 2% of the overall U.S. grid. Some states had begun to adopt renewable portfolio standards, and utilities in some of these markets, like Colorado’s Xcel Energy, had begun to pilot residential renewable programs through the bundling of the newly created renewable energy certificate (REC). But on the whole, coal was still the dominant source of all electricity.
Renewable Choice founder, Quayle Hodek, had recently moved to Colorado following the demise of an early start-up and was actively looking for his next entrepreneurial opportunity. An advert from Xcel about its residential, renewable Windsource program piqued Hodek’s curiosity. How did this program work, and how could he—or anyone—participate in the renewable energy market?
After conversations with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory and others, Hodek and his early business partners realized they had found their new venture: there was a vacuum in the market for someone to bring renewable energy to the masses. RECs weren’t limited to use by utilities; they were a commodity that could be bought and sold on a voluntary open market. And so, Renewable Choice Energy was born.
From the beginning, the company’s emphasis was on choice–on providing consumers with renewable energy options at a time when there were few available. In the early years, Hodek and friends went door-to-door, approaching individual residences about buying green power via RECs. John Powers, current VP of Strategic Renewables and one of the first Renewable Choice employees, recalls those early days:
“It wasn’t always easy to help homeowners understand the nascent renewable energy market. We spent a lot of time educating people on what RECs were,” says Powers. “But you could tell that there was a lot of interest. Even back then, people were passionate about the environment and were searching for ways to invest in a clean future.”
It quickly became evident to Hodek and his team that there was an even greater opportunity waiting in the commercial, industrial, institutional (C&I), and MUSH markets. In 2002, Renewable Choice began providing RECs to green building projects seeking LEED® certification, and, in 2003, became members of the U.S. Green Building Council. The company also expanded to broader commercial markets in 2003, working with early adopters like Colorado-based White Wave Foods, maker of Silk soy milk.
2006 would prove to be a watershed year for the company. That was when client Whole Foods Market decided to take its green power purchase nationwide—and public. Whole Foods became the first major U.S. corporation to make the switch to 100% wind power using RECs. It was a decision that would begin a revolution. Today, more than 1,300 U.S. companies are members of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Green Power Partnership program, and over 80 multinational corporations have joined the RE100, pledging to source 100% of their energy from renewable sources.
Renewable Choice received the Department of Energy’s Beacon Award that year for the role the company played in helping to spearhead the Whole Foods deal. National press and many other corporate clients were soon to follow, helping the company to shore up its leading position as a market pioneer and scale its staff.
Over the next five years—despite the economic downturn that affected so many global businesses—Renewable Choice continued to grow. The company slowly began to broaden its product offerings, first adding carbon offsets to its portfolio, then energy efficiency products and sustainability consulting. In 2012, its internal consulting division would go to market as subsidiary Mosaic Sustainability, a leading provider of greenhouse gas accounting and supply chains sustainability services, acquired in 2016 by the Anthesis Group.
At its core, Renewable Choice has always been focused on renewable energy, and, more importantly, scaling renewable adoption as quickly and readily as possible. When corporate clients began asking for help in investigating a different renewable energy contracting mechanism (the power purchase agreement) the Renewable Choice team found the next opportunity to fulfill its mission.
The company began consulting on PPAs at the tail end of 2011 for some early adopters, expanding its offerings more broadly to clients in 2013. The timing could not have been more ideal; 2015 saw a record-breaking year for the adoption of wind and solar energy, led by corporations. Several of Renewable Choice’s commercial PPA clients are market champions, and the company has helped to facilitate capacity additions of more than 1 GW of new wind power since 2011.
In 2015, Renewable Choice hired Pete Dignan as its CEO. Under Dignan’s leadership, the company’s success has accelerated. The Renewable Choice of today is still a market pioneer, opening up new global markets for green power products, and commanding between 30-50% market share for third-party renewable energy consultants in the commercial market. The company is widely recognized for its thought-leading expertise and commitment to transparency and customer satisfaction, with a reputation that far outsizes its 35 person team.
The company’s commitment to choice remains immutable. Its mission—to make it ever easier for all organizations to embrace clean, renewable energy—drives its team of high-performing and well-respected industry experts. The company is further motivated and influenced by its status as a B Corporation, a designation it has proudly achieved since 2011. These values are reflected in the company itself: a team with an average of 8 years tenure, nearly 0% turnover, and a 5/5 on Glassdoor.
“I am enormously proud of what we have achieved at Renewable Choice,” says Hodek, who now serves as the firm’s co-founder and Chairman. “We have not only helped to shape and grow a thriving renewable energy market, but we have built an incredible team in the process. It’s an amazing legacy.”