GOLDEN, Colo. - The number of U.S. utility customers participating in voluntary green power programs continues to grow steadily, reaching more than 650,000 in 2009, according to the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL). That’s a gain of about 50,000 customers since 2008, or about 8 percent, despite the tough economic conditions, said NREL. Also, green power sales exceeded 6 billion kilowatt-hours (kWh) in 2009, a gain of about 1 billion kWh since 2008. The sales are supporting roughly 6,000 megawatts of renewable power capacity. Overall, more than 850 utilities nationwide provide voluntary green power programs, in which consumers can choose to help support additional electricity production from renewable resources such as wind and solar power.

NREL’s annual assessment of leading utility green power programs finds that Austin Energy continues to lead the nation in total green power sales. During 2009, the Texas utility sold nearly 765 million kWh of renewable power generated from wind power and landfill gas, up from almost 724 million KWh in 2008. In terms of the total number of participants, modestly-sized Portland General Electric (PGE) in Oregon moved up from its second-place position in 2008 to overtake Xcel Energy, which serves customers in eight states. PGE registered 72,812 green power customers in 2009. PacifiCorp also moved up from third to second place, pushing Xcel Energy into third. PGE also moved into second place in the percentage of its customers participating, at 10.2 percent, but California’s City of Palo Alto Utilities maintained its lead with a nearly 21 percent participation rate.

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 cents per kWh in 2000 to 1.75 cents per kWh in 2009.

Publication date:05/31/2010