Under the foundation's program, the environmental groups will endorse environmentally superior resource projects, says Rachel Shimshak, director of the Renewable Northwest Project and a member of the board of the new foundation. "Because the projects are endorsed, we hope they will command a premium in the market," she explains.
The BPA plans to charge a $0.015/kWh premium for the resources and will give 60% of the proceeds to the foundation, says BPA's Crystal Ball. The remaining 40% will be used by the BPA to buy renewable energy, she adds.
Projects funded by the foundation would be in addition to any projects funded through a proposed systems benefit charge. The charge would amount to about 3% of Northwest utilities' revenues, and would provide financial backing for energy conservation, renewables and low-income weatherisation (home insulation). Environmental groups are pushing for legislation that would provide for the charge.
One wind plant so far
Energy that receives the foundation's stamp of approval can't be blended with other sources, notes Shimshak. Three projects have been endorsed so far: two BPA hydro facilities and the 41 MW Wyoming Wind Project owned by PacifiCorp and the Eugene Water & Electric Board. The BPA will buy 7 MW from the plant, due to start producing electricity in October. It consists of 69 Mitsubishi 600 kW turbines developed by veteran California wind company SeaWest together with Tomen Power Corp of Japan. But that power won't be sold at a premium because the BPA signed a contract to sell it to Salem Electric before the foundation was formed, notes Ball.
She says it is possible other utilities might become partners in the foundation. Right now, only the BPA is selling the endorsed power at a premium. The foundation's first customer is expected to be the Emerald People's Utility District in Springfield, Oregon. It has said it will buy 3 MW at a premium of $200,000, says Ball. The BPA and Emerald are still working out the details of the contract.
"This is an ingenious concept," says Shimshak. "It's meant to separate good projects from the not-so-good and provide an additional way to invest in new renewable energy and fish and wildlife."