Monday, October 2, 2023

Rivian Backs $1 Billion Effort to Make a Coal Mine Kentucky’s Largest Renewable Energy Site


Luxury electric vehicle manufacturer Rivian will introduce a new carbon-neutral add-on for its electric pickups and SUVs.

Rivian says it will purchase renewable energy from an upcoming solar plant that’s taking over the abandoned Starfire coal mine — one of the largest in Kentucky. The venture sees Rivian partner with The Nature Conservancy and BrightNight, an independent power producer based in West Palm Beach, Fla.

The $1 billion project is expected to commence operations in 2027 and will be the largest clean energy project in Kentucky and one of the largest in the U.S. The 800-megawatt facility, dubbed the BrightNight Starfire Renewable Energy Center, will produce enough electricity to power nearly 200,000 homes per year.

Rivian will initially purchase 100 MW of energy from Starfire in Phase 1 of the four-phase project.

Courtesy Rivian

The announcement comes as Rivian seeks to capitalize on growing consumer concerns about climate change and ways to shrink household carbon footprints.

According to Rivian’s CEO, RJ Scaringe, the automaker will leverage the renewable energy credits (RECs) generated by the solar plant. These RECs serve as an industry-standard representation of the low-carbon power purchased by companies, Scaringe said in an exclusive interview with Axios.

“Eventually, this will be bundled with every Rivian sale,” Scaringe said. “To start, this will be a package that’s going to be available with the vehicle.”

Rivian’s strategy stands out as one of the more unconventional approaches in the electric vehicle market, as it firmly centers around clean energy initiatives.

Drawing inspiration from airlines that offer carbon offsets to eco-conscious travelers, Rivian sees a host of business opportunities by adopting a holistic perspective on the electric system. This includes coordinating usage around specific times of the day, aggregating distributed storage, and maximizing the use of renewable energy.

“Shifting our energy system to carbon neutrality goes beyond electrifying the roughly 1.5 billion vehicles in the global fleet,” Scaringe said. “We must also support the decarbonization of our grid and responsible deployment of renewable energy.”

BrightNight CEO Martin Hermann praised the automaker’s innovative and forward-thinking approach. “Together, we are transforming a coal mine, reinvesting in a region eager to continue its role as an energy leader, and demonstrating the incredible impact of corporate power procurement.”

Courtesy Rivian

The Nature Conservancy helped Rivian establish a “rigorous competitive process” for selecting a clean energy project that would help the EV maker accelerate the “3Cs” — clean energy transitions that positively impact climate, conservation, and communities. Rivian and The Nature Conservancy co-developed the public guide “Power with Purpose,” which offers tools and resources for industry leaders to use and adapt their approach to accelerate environmentally and socially driven clean energy projects.

“Significant investments in infrastructure will be critical to solving the climate crisis, but how we invest is just as important as how much we invest: We need to ensure both people and the planet are central to these decisions, especially in communities like the Appalachians that have powered America for centuries and have tremendous natural resources,” said Jennifer Morris, CEO of The Nature Conservancy. “We are proud to collaborate with Rivian and BrightNight on this important project.”

This is not Rivian’s first venture into the carbon credit market. Recently, the company announced it was exploring the possibility of earning Verra carbon credits through its home EV chargers, which could be sold for additional revenue streams.

As part of its broader sustainability goals, Rivian says it aims to achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2040. The company became the first automaker to sign the United Nations 24/7 Energy Compact in March. This compact outlines principles for the promotion of carbon-free energy sources to combat climate change.

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