New wind plant to supply green power

Enron Corp has announced plans to build 39 MW of wind plant in southern California. The new wind farms will be constructed by Enron Wind Corp (EWC) of Tehachapi, California -- formerly Zond Corp -- on two sites and will provide power for Enron's new green power unit, Earth Smart Power. The announcement was made by the independent gas and oil giant on November 18.

One site will consist of 16 MW of installed capacity near Palm Springs in Riverside County. The second development, 23 MW, will be at another as-yet-unnamed site also in Riverside County, says Enron's Gary Foster. Both will feature Zond's Z-750 kW series wind turbine. Construction is to begin by early 1998. The smaller of the wind farms will be on-line by the end of the third quarter of 1998, says Enron. The larger will start generating sometime in 1999.

The announcement comes on the eve of the January 1 start of deregulation in the competitive California market. It is a move that sets Enron apart in its commitment to renewable energy, says Kenneth Lay, chairman and CEO of Enron Corp, a publicly traded company. California, America's most populous state, is also expected to be the country's largest market for green energy.

"The cost of entry [into the market] for companies to make the claim to be environmentally friendly is their commitment to add incremental generation of renewable energy," says Lay. "Unlike others who say they will build new sources of renewable power if customers come, Enron is making that investment today. We will not simply be reallocating existing renewable production as the other marketers plan to do."

Lay, speaking to the Nature Conservancy's International Leadership Council, also unveiled Enron's Earth Smart Power, to be offered by the company's Enron Energy Services (EES). Earth Smart Power will be at least 50% generated from renewable resources, with the rest of the power guaranteed not to come from nuclear, coal or oil. EES has signed a letter of agreement with EWC to purchase all of the electricity produced.

"January 1, 1998 will be a historic day in California," said Lay. "Not only are Californians going to be able to choose their electric company, they will also have the ability to show their commitment to the environment by selecting a brand of electricity which includes power from new clean generation sources."

The marketing effort for Enron Earth Smart Power began immediately. Already it is one of six companies certified as true "green power marketers" by the Center for Resource Solutions. As such they may use the Green-e Renewable Electricity Brand. The Green-e brand indicates that the electricity supplies used include verified renewable energy resources, have air emissions for sulphur dioxide, nitrogen oxide, and carbon dioxide at or lower than what is currently contained in California's System Power, and that the certified products meet the programme's stringent ethical, consumer and environmental protection criteria.

Enron Corp of Houston, one of the world's largest integrated natural gas and electricity companies with approximately $23 billion in assets, has a total of 400 employees in California. If it were to get 10% of the California $23 billion electricity market, it has said it could have as many as 10,000 employees in the state. A statewide advertising campaign, already under way in early November, included a quarter-page newspaper advertisement in the San Francisco area that emphasised low cost, not renewables: "For years we've lobbied to cut your electric bill. Now all you have to do is check this box." The ad offered a 10% savings on a customer's 1997 electricity rates -- but declined to say that the 10% was mandated by the state's deregulation legislation -- and two free weeks of electricity once the customer has been with Enron for a year.