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Australia's first initiative to offer electricity exclusively from renewable sources was launched recently at the Asia/Pacific Renewable Energy Symposium in Sydney. The Greenpower programme from New South Wales electric utility Orion Energy is to market a scheme under which its 65,000 customers will pay a premium for the incremental costs of green resource projects including wind.

Within six months Orion plans to sell green electricity to the 65% of customers who indicate a "willingness" to pay more for green power in a marketing study. Orion's Ian Nichols says the company would consider the program a success if 10-15% of customers signed up. The surcharge for the green power will depend on the resource portfolio, said Nichols, but Orion is aiming for a 20% premium which would add about AUS$0.02/kWh for domestic customers who currently pay an average of A$0.10/kWh.

The marketing study that identified the green customer base was conducted over four months and was "consistent with other research in Australia" , says Nichols, adding the scheme is intended to "accelerate development of green energy technologies offering the potential to provide a significant contribution to Australia's future energy needs while having a low environmental impact" .

Orion's chief executive, Mark Franklin, says the company will develop procedures for public scrutiny to ensure consumer trust. One of the first projects will be a small wind farm which could be used "to establish a manufacturing facility√Č to build larger grid-connected wind turbines which are not presently constructed in Australia.

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