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United States

Big names volunteer for green power

Twenty Fortune 500 companies and several environmentally conscious smaller businesses, cities and universities have signed on to the United States Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) latest voluntary program. They will replace purchases of electricity generated using fossil fuels with at least 280,000 MWh of green energy over the next year.

EPA's Green Power Partnership is a new federal initiative announced July 31 at the sixth National Green Power Marketing conference in Portland, Oregon. The program follows through on a recommendation in the Bush Administration's National Energy Policy report, released in May, and is the latest in what EPA calls its "family of volunteer programs." The concept of offering voluntary energy programs is not new. It originated during George Bush senior's presidency when, in 1991, the EPA introduced Green Lights, a program that encouraged businesses to replace inefficient lighting in buildings with more efficient fluorescent lamps.

Offering a renewables program based on this voluntary model of pollution prevention is not an accident, according to EPA. And it is certainly not ahead of the curve. Prices for green power are down, green tags are being traded nationally and there has been a proliferation this year in wind power development. "A growing number of organisations recognise that green power is increasingly available and offers the next logical step in environmental responsibility," says EPA administrator Christine Todd Whitman. "By choosing green power sources for their electricity, these groups are leading the way toward a cleaner future."

Program partners must agree to buy an amount of green power that equals at least 2% of their electricity needs within the next year. For that pledge, EPA will provide technical assistance and public recognition.

Copy cat

If this sounds familiar, it is. The World Resources Institute (WRI) and Business for Social Responsibility formed a similar partnership of 11 business giants that consume 7% of the nation's energy. They announced their agreement at the fifth green power marketing conference (Windpower Monthly, September 2000). That partnership, which promised to buy at least 1000 MW of green energy over a decade, included the EPA, as well as several of the same partners that have now signed on to the agency's program.

"This new EPA program is complementary to the work by WRI and others doing work on behalf of green power," says Kurt Johnson of the EPA, who points out that WRI's program takes a technical look at projects. "The focus of EPA's efforts is to provide assistance that complements groups like WRI with recognition and information on emission benefits."

The EPA partnership includes production and research facilities owned by 3M, Ford Motor Co, General Motors, Steelcase and Johnson & Johnson, as well as businesses such as Xantrex Technologies, Fetzer Vineyards, Interface Flooring Systems and Cascade Engineering. It also includes Connecticut College and the cities of Chicago, Illinois and Santa Monica, California.

Some partners are already well on their way to meeting program requirements and many are doing it through existing green marketing programs. Kinko's, New Belgium Brewing and Batdorf & Bronson Coffee Roasters are in this group, along with Carnegie Mellon University and the University of Colorado Student Union. According to Dave Garmin of the US Department of Energy, the DOE's National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Colorado is closing an agreement with Xcel Energy to buy two million kWh of wind energy through the utility's Windsource green marketing program.

In June, the City of Portland, another partner, adopted a plan to offset or buy 10% of its 155 million kWh annual energy usage with renewables by 2003 and to reach the 100% mark by 2010. Already the city has cut its energy use by 15% and is buying $30,000 of green power from Portland General Electric and PacifiCorp. It has also added a fuel cell and digester gas micro-turbines at its wastewater treatment plant and intends to install a small wind turbine at its composting plant near the Columbia River.

The EPA says it is encouraged by the activities being undertaken by the Green Power Partnership's founding partners. "So far as new renewable energy capacity is built through these energy markets, that will clean up the existing fossil fuel generation," Johnson says.

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