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United States

United States

Growing popularity

Green pricing remains an area of growing interest in the US and it seems that almost the whole of America now knows there is wind in the sales of Traverse City in Michigan, home to the country's first green pricing programme by a municipal utility (Windpower Monthly, September 1996). An Associated Press wire story on the Michigan town's green pricing project in early January was picked up by newspapers across the country, including the Los Angeles Times, which has a circulation of 1.13 million. An accompanying photograph showed the 600 kW Vestas turbine and energy consultant Steve Smiley, who oversees the programme for Traverse City Power & Light.

Installed last June, the wind turbine is the first in the country installed specifically for a green pricing programme. The programme, however, hasn't been painless. One customer, quoted in the AP story, is the Omelette Shoppe and Bakery. When owner Dick Dell'Acqua first saw his electricity bill jump from $1600 to $1900 monthly he was aghast before he recalled the benefits. "When we got our first bill, I said, 'Holy smoke,'" he recalls. "But this is cleaner energyÉ and it kind of goes along with the whole idea of trying to be a better steward."

About 12 utilities are currently offering 15 different green pricing products, says Ed Holt, whose Green Pricing Newsletter has covered the phenomenon since it first took root in 1993. He expects another six programmes giving electricity customers the option to buy green power at a premium price to start within the next year. And he estimates another two dozen utilities nationally are considering such a market mechanism.

Sacramento and Detroit

The AP article also mentioned green programmes offered by Sacramento Municipal Utility District (Windpower Monthly, January 1997) and Detroit Edison, which began operating a solar-powered generator last year. So far, some 200 of Detroit's customers have signed up. Holt says, however, that many of the utilities which adopt green pricing are not being innovative, but are instead motivated by factors such as research and development or regulatory directives. And on the future of green pricing, Edison Electric Institute spokesman Chuck Linderman told AP: "Whether it will sweep the country, it's too early to tellÉ But I think it's going to be more than just a novelty."

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