The design and marketing of green power programs are a critical element of success, according to a new study by the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory.GOLDEN, Colorado, US, 2001-10-04 [SolarAccess.com] More than 85 utilities in 29 states currently offer green power options to consumers, in an attempt to support additional electrical production from solar and wind facilities. To date, 282 megawatts of renewable energy capacity has been installed or is planned as a result of green pricing programs, enough to meet all the power needs of 110,000 homes. “Green pricing has given utilities and their customers a powerful new tool to foster environmentally friendly energy production,” said co-author Blair Swezey of NREL. “Our work here lays out the ways these programs connect best with their customers, and shows which are achieving the most in terms of adding new renewable power to the grid.” Ranked by the amount of new energy generated, the green pricing program of the Los Angeles Department of Water & Power (LADWP) was first in the United States, followed by Austin (Texas) Energy and Public Service Company of Colorado. Ranked by customer participation rates, the top four are Moorhead (Minnesota) Public Service, LADWP, Holy Cross Energy (Colorado) and Madison (Wisconsin) Gas & Electric. The study cites several ways utilities have provided “personal value” to green pricing customers, including tax deductibility of the extra charges, personal recognition in program newsletters and advertisements, instilling civic and community pride and price protection from fuel price increases. “Customers want to know that the dollars they are contributing result in additional and meaningful renewable energy development,” and the report says pricing should be tied directly to the investment promised for new projects. Successful implementation of a green pricing program demands continuing marketing efforts to build awareness, as well as ease of participation and a longer-term commitment to expanding the program to meet customer demand. While green power usually is focused on residential customers, a program’s ability to attract business customers could determine its ultimate impact, notes the report. Some programs have drawn as much as half of their support from businesses and, overall, one quarter of the total power sold through green power programs is to non-residential customers. Utilities can target specific green pricing programs to appeal to wide segments of their customer base by carefully analyzing the motivations and preferences of potential participants, adds the report. The importance of green pricing for providing consumers with environmentally beneficial choices in electricity is increasing as a result of market issues that have slowed the drive for full utility deregulation in some states. NREL is a national laboratory of DOE that is managed by Midwest Research Institute, Battelle and Bechtel. The lab is a research centre for solar, wind, biomass and geothermal energy sources, as well as energy-efficient buildings, advanced vehicle design, and hydrogen fuel cells.