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NREL highlights utility green power leaders

Washington, 3 May 2010

Annual assessment shows more consumers making clean power choices: The U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) today 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. According to the NREL analysis, more than 850 utilities across the United States now offer green power programs. Utility green power sales in 2009 exceeded 6 billion kilowatt-hours (kWh), and they represent more than 5 percent of total electricity sales for some of the most popular programs. Wind energy represents approximately two-thirds of electricity generated for green energy programs nationwide.

“Despite the economic downturn, consumers are continuing to support the development of renewable energy by voluntarily participating in utility green power programs,” said NREL senior energy analyst Lori Bird. “These utilities are the national leaders.”

Using information provided by utilities, NREL developed “Top 10” rankings of utility programs for 2009 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, and the lowest price premium charged for a green power program using new renewable resources.

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 (Ore. and five other states), the Sacramento Municipal Utility District (Calif.), and Xcel Energy (Col., Minn., Wis. and New Mexico).

Ranked by the percentage of customer participation, the top utilities are City of Palo Alto Utilities (Calif.), Portland General Electric, Madison Gas and Electric Company (Wis.), the Sacramento Municipal Utility District, and the City of Naperville (Ill.). (See attached tables for additional rankings).

“Participating in green power programs is one way that consumers can support renewable energy development and reduce their environmental footprint,” said NREL analyst Jenny Sumner. More than 650,000 customers are participating in utility programs nationwide.

Utility green pricing programs are one segment of a larger green power marketing industry that counts Fortune 500 companies, government agencies and colleges and universities among its customers, and helps support more than 6,000 MW of renewable electricity generation capacity.

NREL analysts attribute the success of many programs to continued efforts by utilities and their partners to raise awareness of the availability of green power options.  In addition, the rate premium that customers pay for green power continues to drop.  The average net price premium for utility green power products has decreased from 3.48¢/kWh in 2000 to 1.75¢/kWh in 2009.

The Green Power assessment was performed by NREL's Strategic Energy Analysis Center (SEAC), which integrates technical and economic analyses and leads NREL's efforts in applying clean energy technologies to both national and international markets.

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NREL released its first annual Green Power study in 2000. NREL is the U.S. Department of Energy's primary national laboratory for renewable energy and energy efficiency research and development. NREL is operated for DOE by the Alliance for Sustainable Energy, LLC. www.nrel.gov