The U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) released its annual ranking of leading utility “green pricing” programs. Under green pricing, consumers can choose to help support additional electricity production from renewable resources such as solar and wind.Golden, Colorado, March 10, 2004 [SolarAccess.com] More than 500 utilities in 33 states now offer these programs. Using information provided by utilities, NREL develops “Top 10” rankings of utility programs in the following categories: total sales of renewable energy to program participants, total number of customer participants, customer participation rate, and the lowest price premium charged for a green pricing service using new renewable resources. Ranked by sales of green power, the green pricing program of Austin (Texas) Energy is first in the nation, followed by Portland General Electric, Sacramento Municipal Utility District, PacifiCorp, and Xcel Energy. Ranked by customer participation rates, the top five are Lenox (Iowa) Municipal Utilities, City of Palo Alto (Calif.) Utilities, Moorhead (Minn.) Public Service, Holy Cross Energy (Colo.), and (tie) Montezuma (Iowa) Municipal Light and Power, and Orcas Power and Light Cooperative (Wash.). “The number of utility green pricing programs continues to grow across the country as well as the number of customers that purchase green power,” said Lori Bird, senior energy analyst at NREL. “Customer choice is proving to be a powerful stimulus for growth in renewable energy development.” In 2003, more than 1.2 billion kWh of renewable energy were sold through green pricing programs, an increase of more than 30% from 2002. Utility green pricing programs are one segment of a larger green power marketing industry that serves nearly 500,000 customers nationwide and helps support about 1,500 MW of renewable electricity generation capacity. NREL also found that four of the 10 utilities with the lowest price premium charged for their green power products offer fuel price protection to their green pricing customers. “With natural gas prices on the rise, greater use of renewable energy can help utilities stabilize electricity rates for their customers,” said Blair Swezey, NREL principal policy advisor. NREL’s Energy Analysis Office performs analyses of green power market trends and is funded by DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy. NREL is a national laboratory managed by Midwest Research Institute and Battelle. The lab is a leading center for research into photovoltaics, wind energy, plant- and waste-derived fuels and chemicals, energy-efficient buildings, advanced vehicle design, geothermal energy and hydrogen fuel cells.