The U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) has released its annual assessment of leading utility green-power programs. Under these voluntary programs, consumers can choose to help support additional electricity production from renewable resources such as wind and solar.
Green power sales from utility programs exceeded 6 million MWh in 2010. Wind energy now represents more than three-fourths of electricity generated for green energy programs nationwide. Using information provided by utilities, NREL has developed “Top 10” rankings of utility green power programs for 2010 in the following categories:
-total sales of renewable energy to program participants
-total number of customer participants
-the percentage of customer participation
-green power sales as a percentage of total utility retail electricity sales
-the lowest price premium charged for a green power program using new renewable resources.
According to NREL, more than 850 utilities across the United States offer green power programs. Ranked by renewable energy sales (kWh/year), Austin Energy in Austin, Texas sold the largest amount of renewable energy in the nation through its voluntary green power program. Rounding out the top five are Portland General Electric (Oregon), PacifiCorp (Oregon and five other states), the Sacramento Municipal Utility District (California), and Xcel Energy (Colorado, Minnesota, Wisconsin and New Mexico).
Ranked by the percentage of customer participation, the top utilities are City of Palo Alto Utilities (California), with more than 20 percent of its customers participating in its green power program, followed by Portland General Electric, Farmers Electric Cooperative of Kalona (Iowa), Madison Gas and Electric Company (Wisconsin), and the Sacramento Municipal Utility District.
“Participating in utility green power programs is one way that consumers can support renewable energy development. These utilities are the national leaders,” says NREL senior analyst Lori Bird. Utility green pricing programs are one segment of a larger green power marketing industry that counts approximately 1.5 million customers, including Fortune 500 companies, government agencies, and colleges and universities among its customers, and helps support more than 9,000 MW of renewable electricity generation capacity.
NREL has also found that more utilities are developing community solar programs, an innovative program design that enables consumers to support local projects. Community solar programs allow customers to purchase a share of a solar system developed in their community and receive the benefits of the energy that is produced by their share. Typically, consumers will pay an upfront cost per watt of solar, and then receive a credit on their bill for the kilowatt-hours that their purchase generated.
“Utilities and third-parties are increasingly developing community solar programs as one way to support local renewable energy development,” says NREL analyst Jenny Sumner. “Customers can invest in solar through community solar programs even if they are renters or own homes with shaded roofs.”
See complete ranking at NREL.gov
Filed Under: Policy