United States

United States

More choice

More of America's utilities seem poised to jump on the green pricing bandwagon. Clark Public Utilities in the Pacific Northwest is the latest to consider offering customers the opportunity to pay premium green rates if they wish to use electricity from clean sources such as wind.

More of America's utilities -- of varying sizes, types and on each coast -- seem poised to jump on the green pricing bandwagon. The tiny Clark Public Utilities in the Pacific Northwest is the latest to consider offering customers the opportunity to pay premium green rates if they wish to use electricity from clean sources such as wind. Commissioners at the utilities district in southern Washington state have already discussed the matter at several public meetings. They say they could have a system in place for their 128,000 customers by early 1997.

"People are used to having choices in the market place, and there's no reason they shouldn't have them when it comes to electricity," says utility chief Bruce Bosch. Utility staff are now studying the idea, informally dubbed "choices."

Other possible pricing options, apart from the green one, might be a Clark rate that offers the utility's usual mix, a rate that allows customers also to choose a variable "cheapest" rate, a Bonneville Power Administration-only rate, or a rate as if all power comes from private sources.

One possible pitfall, however, is that since Clark is currently building a gas-fired plant, it might have to sell the power outside its own district if its own "Clark rate" is not the cheapest or chosen by enough people. But Bosch is so adamant regarding deregulation he wants to banish the term "ratepayer." When customers have a choice, the term is obviously obsolete," he says. And indeed, utility staff, commissioners and consultants are fined a token $1 if they are heard uttering the term.

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