NREL: Utility Green Power Sales Increased 20% in 2008

April 22, 2009

More than 850 utilities across the United States now offer their customers a voluntary choice to buy "green power" generated from renewable energy sources, according to DOE's National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL). NREL's annual assessment of leading utility green power programs found a 20% increase in green power sales in 2008, with total annual sales exceeding 5 billion kilowatt-hours. More than 600,000 utility customers are now participating in such green power programs, which are supporting roughly 5,000 megawatts of new renewable power capacity throughout the country.

NREL's annual ranking of utility green power programs shows relatively minor changes, with Austin Energy still leading the nation for total green power sales. In 2008, the Texas utility sold nearly 724 million kilowatt-hours of renewable power generated from wind energy and landfill gas, a 25% increase in sales relative to 2007. Public Service Company of New Mexico made the top-ten list for total sales for the first time, landing in seventh place. Xcel Energy, which operates in eight states, still has the largest number of participants, but it lost nearly 4,000 participants in 2008, while second-placed Portland General Electric (PGE) gained nearly 8,000 participants, landing the relatively small Oregon utility within 2,313 customers of the first-place spot. PGE increased its customer participation rate to 9.7% of all customers, increasing its rank in that category from fourth to third.

While most utilities charge a premium for buying green power, some utilities set a fixed price for their green power program, and that fixed price can actually save money for customers if the utility ends up paying higher fuel prices for their standard power supply. That was this case this year for two Oklahoma-based utilities—OG&E Electric Services and Edmond Electric—both of which saved their green power customers about a penny per kilowatt-hour on their electric bills. That savings is probably a main reason why Edmond Electric also leads the nation for its green power sales as a percentage of its total retail electricity sales; the utility's green power sales equal 6.4% of its total sales. See the NREL press release and the current and previous top-ten lists of utility green power programs on the Green Power Network, a part of DOE's Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Web site.