Corporate America Buys in to Renewable Energy

Renewable energy capacity in the United States supported by voluntary demand rather than regulatory requirements now tops 2200 MW — up more than 1,000 percent in just five years, according to a new report from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) released this week at the Tenth National Green Power Marketing Conference in Austin, Texas.

The report also notes that purchases by large businesses, institutions and governmental entities are driving the growth of the U.S. voluntary green power market. Green power currently accounts for about 2 percent of America’s electricity supply, but voluntary purchasing of renewable energy is accelerating development of new renewable energy sources. The report, from DOE’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), “Green Power Marketing in the United States: A Status Report,” shows that renewable generating capacity in the United States installed to meet voluntary green power purchasing soared from 167 MW in 2000 to more than 2,200 MW by the end of 2004 (report available at the link below). While the number of residential customers buying green power has more than doubled over the past five years, green energy purchases by large businesses and other U.S. organizations have increased dramatically. This is further illustrated by new data released today by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Green Power Partnership. The Partnership, a voluntary program that encourages large organizations to switch to green power for a specified minimum portion of their annual electric usage, has grown from 21 Founding Partners in 2001 to more than 600 Partners, including Fortune 500 companies, universities, trade associations, and local, state, and federal government agencies. These Green Power Partners are collectively purchasing more than 3.1 billion kWh of green power annually, a figure that has doubled over the past 15 months. This represents a growth of 1000 percent since the Partnership began in 2001 with Founding Partners purchasing 3.1 million kWh annually. Three billion kWh is enough electricity to power about 300,000 average American homes for a year, and is roughly equivalent to the annual output of a 1000 MW wind farm. “Five years ago, the voluntary green power market was focused primarily on residential purchasers, and there were only a handful of significant non-residential purchasers,” said Douglas L. Faulkner, acting assistant secretary for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy at the U.S. Department of Energy. “The entry of commercial, industrial, and government purchasers into the renewable energy market has resulted in tremendous growth in the development of clean and limitless renewable energy resources.” The new report also notes that over the past five years, average renewable energy price premiums for utility programs have declined at an annual average rate of 8 percent as wind-generated power becomes increasingly competitive against natural gas-fueled generation. In Colorado and in Texas, escalating natural gas prices have pushed electricity rates for regular utility customers higher than rates being paid by customers subscribing to green power options.
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