United States

United States

Environment group first to conduct green audits

For the first time in the US, a major environmental group is backing a green energy marketer to ensure proper disclosure of the pro-environment credentials of its electricity and to help set a national standard. The Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), a leading non-profit group, and AllEnergy Marketing Company of Waltham, Massachusetts, announced the green marketing alliance late last month.

EDF will act as a key advisor to ReGen Technologies, a just-founded division of AllEnergy that will offer green electricity and other products to wholesale and retail customers in New England -- and ultimately nationwide. ReGen is also to try and boost development of new renewables using technologies such as wind and solar. And it will work with regulators and environmental and consumer advocates to develop ways of verifying the impact of electricity to help consumers make informed decisions.

"We are excited about empowering customers to take direct and positive environmental action through the ordinary act of using electricity -- this could be a huge environmental success story coming out of the new, competitive electric markets," says Karl Rabago, EDF energy programme manager and formerly with the US Department of Energy.

He says the alliance with ReGen is the first just for green power marketing -- although an off-shoot of EDF, the Environmental Resources Trust, is working with Bonneville Power Administration in the Pacific Northwest on environmental issues. He also says EDF will seek additional such partners, though not with companies in direct competition with ReGen. "There will be replicable models here -- and we hope to participate in many of them."

Robert Grace, director of ReGen, adds: "Once customers can choose their electricity supplier, we believe many will use their choice to control and reduce the environmental impact of their electricity consumption." Michael Tennis, formerly of the Union of Concerned Scientists, has also joined ReGen as manager. ReGen's parent, AllEnergy, is a marketing venture of New England Electric System (NEES) and Eastern Enterprises, owner of Boston Gas Co.

Two recent pilot programmes in New England, which allowed consumers to choose their supplier, indicated that green marketing will be sizeable because many customers do want to buy clean electricity as long as they can be sure it is green (see previous story).

Grace says ReGen is seeking guidance from EDF because it wants its products to be highly credible from the start -- with customers and the environmental community. AllEnergy is already participating in the year long pilot programme in Massachusetts. When the market was opened up in January, AllEnergy captured just 5% of those choosing a green option with an offer of a mix of 38% coal, 22% gas, 14% nuclear, 10% oil, 10% hydro, and 6% other renewables along with a promise to buy and retire permits to emit pollutants under the Clean Air Act and to install solar panels.

Commenting on this dubious "green" mix, Rabago admits it is a problem. He notes that the New England region does not yet have enough clean electricity available and the alliance will be trying to prompt the development of new renewables sources. If this does not happen, "Then they won't be selling a clean product," he says. "I guess they wouldn't be working with us."

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