Retailers, government adopt green power

So-called “green” energy sources are gaining favor among companies seeking to offer new choices and added value to customers. Some recent examples include United Airlines, BJ`s Wholesale Club, New England Electric System and UtiliCorp United. Additionally, the federal government seems likely to become a major green power customer.

The Clinton Administration is drafting an executive order mandating federal government agencies to purchase 5 percent of their electricity from renewable sources, paying a premium of up to 20 percent. The order would also restate the goal of the Energy Policy Act of 1992 to reduce federal government energy use by 20 percent by the year 2000, and 30 percent by 2005.

In the private sector, BJ`s Wholesale Club of Natick, Mass., is using photovoltaic (PV) modules for a generator planned to serve the Massachusetts market for green power (see photo). BJ`s, which operates 93 food and general merchandise warehouse clubs in 13 states on the Eastern Seaboard, recently installed 60 PV panels at its North Dartmouth, Mass., location. The facility, Sun Power Station 1, is being called the first solar electricity plant purpose-built to meet green power demands in a deregulated market.

The project is a joint venture of BJ`s, Sun Power Electric of Boston-a not-for-profit solar energy service provider-and New England Electric System (NEES) subsidiary AllEnergy Marketing Co.

The North Dartmouth station is expected to eventually have 164 PV panels, producing 60,000 kWh a year to meet the needs of 10 average homes for 20 years, according to BJ`s. AllEnergy will buy the output and market it under its green power name, “Re-Gen.”

The U.S. Department of Energy`s Utility Photovoltaic Group TEAM-UP program partially funded the project, which consists of PV panels from ASE Americas in Billerica, Mass., and Evergreen Solar in Waltham.

Further west, Colorado`s first wind farm began generating electricity for Public Service Company of Colorado`s (PSCo) Windsource program. Residential customers can buy wind energy for their homes in 100 kWh blocks of power on a monthly basis from Denver-based PSCo and Holy Cross Energy of Glenwood Springs, Colo. Customers pay a $2.50 premium per 100 kWh over existing residential rates.

“We know that a significant number of our customers want renewable energy sources developed within Colorado,” said Andy Sulkko, PSCo`s renewable energy product manager. About 9,000 PSCo customers and 700 Holy Cross customers have signed up for the Windsource program.

The 5 MW Phase I of the Ponnequin wind facility, eventually to be comprised of 21 NEG Micon 750 MW turbines, began operating in December. The project will generate 15.7 MW of power.

UtiliCorp United also plans to serve green power customers in Colorado. The company launched a plan Nov. 12 to offer a green power option for 369,000 electric customers in Colorado, Missouri, Kansas and West Virginia. Customers who sign up on an annual basis for 100 kWh blocks of power are to be offered the green power option for a premium over traditional sources.

As part of the program, UtiliCorp is investing $300,000 for a 16 percent interest in a joint windpower project at the Jeffrey Energy Center in Kansas, near Topeka. Western Resources owns the remainder of the $2.3 million project, which is expected to begin construction in early 1999, and enter service a few months later.

“This project is an important move for UtiliCorp in providing customers with more choice in the way they purchase energy,” said Jim Miller, senior vice president, energy delivery.

In California, Green Mountain Energy teamed up with Prudential California Realty to provide home buyers with information about deregulation, electricity choice, and opportunities to buy electricity from Green Mountain Energy. Prudential operates some 94 offices in Northern California, handling nearly $3.9 billion in real estate sales in 1998.

Green Mountain also partnered with United Airlines to create a new frequent-flier program. Through the end of January 1999, United Airlines Mileage Plus members in California were offered the opportunity to earn 5,000 bonus miles for choosing Green Mountain as their electricity provider.

Green Mountain Energy`s Green-e certified products include electricity generated from sources such as large-scale and small-scale hydropower, biomass, geothermal and windpower.

Green power initiatives seem to be paying off, at least in California. Green power has commanded a significant premium in the state, according to Automated Power Exchange (APX) of Cupertino. During the month of October, sellers in the APX Green Power Market received an hourly average market premium of $2.83 per MWh for on-peak power and $7.17/MWh off-peak, compared to the hourly average California PX price for system power. The volume-weighted monthly average hourly price for on-peak power in the APX Green Power Market was $32.54/MWh, and $28.47 for off-peak power.

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Sun Power Station #1 was dedicated on the roof of BJ`s Wholesale Club in North Dartmouth, Mass., in mid-December. The 50 kW system delivers power for sale in the state`s green electricity market. Pictured left to right are David O`Connor, Massachusetts Energy Resources Commissioner, Stephen Cowell, president of Sun Power Electric, William Heil, CEO of AllEnergy, Jeff Serfass, general manager of UPVG, Massachusetts state Representative John Quinn and Cindy Luppi of Clean Water Action.

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