But the idea, tested this spring, is not popular enough to be implemented. A leading PGE official blames not wind but a market that is already too crowded with credit cards. Indeed the "rounding up" for monthly bills might eventually be introduced along with the concept of green pricing, he says.
Under the innovative marketing programme, customers in a test sample were offered a wind credit card, debit card and moneybuilder "certificate of deposit" savings account. But so few people signed up, the idea has been shelved, says Richard Weijo, PGE's product development director. Response to the bank package was surprisingly "uninspiring," he says. PGE believes that credit cards are already too common. "A niche market is probably interested, but it's a very competitive market," he says. Consumers are not familiar enough with debit cards and would need to be educated before one for wind power could be introduced, but the job of educating the public is for banks not utilities. Least response of all was for the savings certificate.
The "penny jar" option was a popular concept, drawing approximately a 4% response rate, higher than the 2-3% response rate common for direct marketing programmes. But Weijo says the costs of setting up a billing system to accommodate the idea prohibits introducing it alone. The utility is now considering green pricing, and might proceed with the penny jar for wind in tandem if that method of pricing is introduced. But at soonest it would not be for 12 to 18 months, he says. A wind farm is to be built in the Pacific Northwest, in PGE territory, in the Columbia Hills near Goldendale in Washington state using Kenetech turbines.