Budweiser (and other firms) should be really careful about how they frame purchases of RECs to offset 100% of their energy consumption. Saying their product is 100% powered by renewables is a false statement and may be grounds for a FTC complaint
— (((Alex Gilbert))) (@gilbeaq) February 3, 2019
Did you happen to catch the Budweiser Super Bowl ad featuring an adorable dalmatian, Bob Dylan’s song “Blowin’ in the Wind,” and the tag line that Bud is “Now Brewed With Wind Power”? This would surely lead a consumer to believe that every can of beer is made using 100% wind energy that’s directly powering Anheuser-Busch’s brewing facilities, right? Well, not exactly. When companies buy renewable energy they do it through Renewable Energy Credits (RECs) or through Corporate Purchasing Power Agreements (PPAs) which means that renewable energy that is produced anywhere throughout the country is introduced into the electric grid. This doesn’t mean that the renewable megawatts a corporate entity like Anheuser-Busch purchases are the same megawatts that it’s actually using to make its product.
In the company’s own words they state that “By purchasing more than enough renewable electricity to brew Budweiser in the US, we are able to say Budweiser is brewed with 100% renewable electricity from wind.” So while AB can enter a PPA with a renewable energy producer like Thunder Ranch wind farm in Oklahoma it doesn’t mean that wind is necessarily used to brew Bud. AB must also purchase power from utilities near its factories which is usually a mix of various types of energy, both renewable and non-renewable.
Why This Matters: As you can see from Alex Gilbert’s tweet above, this is a misleading statement from Budweiser. While the company does have on-site renewable energy at many of its factories and also adds renewables to the grid through its PPAs, its beers are not directly brewed with wind power and it’s straddling a fine line of greenwashing at this point. However, it’s also worth noting that since Budweiser and Bud Light are two of America’s most popular beers that talking about wind power and renewables directly with American consumers can help normalize carbon-free energy and overcome any stigma that it’s a partisan issue. But first and foremost Budweiser should be upfront about the role that corporations can play in expanding renewable energy assets and why this is important for our country, instead of patting itself on the back for a confusing claim and calling it a day.