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Green Pricing Programs in NM and Bordering States

Green pricing programs are one of the great successes of the 1990s for renewable energy. Roughly one in five Americans can now choose to have some or all of their electricity supplied by renewable energy sources. Surveys have shown there is public support for these programs. What follows are descriptions of green pricing programs in New Mexico and neighboring states. The main things to note here are the prices being charged, and the success of the programs to date in signing up customers. This data illustrates that customers not only say they want green power, they buy it when it has been properly marketed to them (the latter is not always the case!).

New Mexico

Kit Carson Electric Cooperative, serving the Taos, New Mexico area, started signing up customers for their new green pricing program in November 2001. Kit Carson purchases wind energy from Platte River's Medicine Bow plant. Customers can purchase renewable energy starting at a premium of $2.50 per 100 kWh block. Currently, 82 residential customers have signed up to purchase 159 blocks, with the 5 business customers purchasing 20. Customers can sign up for just one block, or purchase multiple blocks to supply all of their electric energy needs. Kit Carson customers can sign up by calling (505) 758-2258, or (800) 688-6780.

Xcel Energy [formerly Southwestern Public Service (SPS)] presently has a single 660 kilowatt turbine installed near Clovis, New Mexico. Department of Energy (DOE) purchases much of the power from the first turbine, which triggered the building of a second. Xcel also purchases wind energy from an 80 turbine 80 MW wind farm in Texas. Xcel offers the wind-generated energy in blocks of 100 kWh. Each block costs $3 more than power purchased at Xcel's standard rates. Xcel currently has 300 customers (residential and small commercial) signed up for the program. Xcel customers in New Mexico who want to support the renewable energy project should call the Xcel service number: (800) 750-2520.

Arizona

In 1997, the Arizona Corporation Commission approved Arizona Public Service's (APS) green pricing tariff to develop 400 kW of centralized, grid connected photovoltaic systems for interested commercial as well as residential customers. APS now has 1 MW of installed solar generating capacity and will add another MW in 2001. Solar power will be sold to participating residential customers in 15-KWh increments. The premium will be $2.64 per month per 15 KWh block.

Salt River Project (SRP) is the nation's third-largest public power utility and one of Arizona's largest water suppliers, providing power to customers throughout a 2,900-square-mile service territory in central Arizona. They merged their various green pricing programs into one - EarthWise Energy. It is composed of renewables from two solar plants of 40 kW, 4 MW from methane generation, and a low-hydro canal system of 750 kW. SRP customers can subscribe to the EarthWise Energy program by paying $3/month for a 100-kWh block. Currently, they have 2,804 residential subscribers and 30 small commercial customers, who purchase a combined 4,793 blocks of energy. SRP is also in the planning stages of a new pilot program geared toward selling renewable energy to large commercial customers - with a goal of selling a total of 540,000 kWh of energy.

Colorado

Colorado Springs Utilities (CSU) offers its residential and commercial customers a wind power program called Green Power. CSU purchases about 1 megawatt of wind-generated energy from the Xcel's WindSource program to supply its customers' demands. Green Power drew such a strong response from CSU customers that the utility had to establish a waiting list after selling out all available slots in 1998. CSU has since increased its wind purchases in to meet demand -- currently 1,100 participants. CSU charges a premium of $3.00 per month for a 100 kWh block of wind power. There is a one-year commitment period, but it is not rigidly binding on the customer. The utility promotes the program through local media, the utility newsletter, local environmental groups and events.

Estes Park Power & Light offers a green pricing program through its Wind Power purchase option. They purchase their power from Platte River's Medicine Bow Plant. Under the program, residential customers can sign up to purchase 100-kWh blocks of wind energy for an extra $2.50 each month or 2.5¢/kWh. Business customers can participate by purchasing a minimum of ten, 100-kWh blocks for $12.50 per month. There are 400 blocks available and are being awarded on a first-come, first-served basis. To date, there are 96 residential subscribers and four business subscribers. Customers are required to make a year-long commitment to purchase the wind energy.

The Wind Power Program is offered by the City of Fort Collins Utilities and Platte River Power Authority (Platte River), the utility's power wholesale supplier. Residential and commercial customers are allowed to participate by purchasing all or a portion of their electricity needs with wind power. Currently they purchase between 3-4 MW of power each month. Businesses may purchase electricity in any number of 1,000-kWh blocks for $25 per block per month, while residents may purchase energy in a 200 kWh block for $5, a 400 kWh block for $10, a mixture of blocks, or all of their energy usage prorated per month. The program currently has approximately 798 residential (500 purchase their full energy use as wind energy) and 32 commercial subscribers. They plan to purchase another ½ turbine of energy output in the fall, with an associated marketing campaign.

Holy Cross Electric Association, which serves the cities of Aspen, Glenwood, Vail and surrounding areas, started marketing its green pricing program in February 1997. Holy Cross is a wholesale customer of Xcel and purchases 5 MW of wind power from Xcel's Ponnequin plant. Customers can pay $2.50/month for 100 kWh blocks of wind generated power. Their program allows for open enrollment of customers, allowing them to go on and off each month as needed, however most customers tend to stay on the plan from year to year. Currently, Holy Cross Electric Association had garnered subscriptions from 2,237 residential, 116 commercial, and 13 municipal/government customers.

Longmont Power & Communications (LPC) offers their 33,600 customers a green pricing program called Wind Energy. LPC purchases 80,000 kWh/month of energy from the Platte River Power Authority's Medicine Bow Wind Power Project in Wyoming. Under the program, residential customers can sign up to purchase 100-kWh blocks of wind energy for an extra $2.50 each month. Business customers can participate by purchasing 500-kWh blocks for a premium of $12.50 per month. Customers must commit to the wind purchases for a minimum of one year. An option available to both residential and business customers is to have wind energy provide all their monthly energy needs. Currently, the Wind Energy Program serves 273 residential and 2 business customers. LPC will begin a new marketing campaign in July in preparation for their purchase of an additional 40,000 kWh/month starting September 1st.

The City of Loveland Water and Power Department offers a green pricing program to residential, commercial and industrial customers. The Wind Energy Premium, initiated in February 1999, offers customers the option to purchase 100-kWh blocks of wind energy for $2.50/month. Wind energy is purchased from the Platte River Power Authority. Loveland began signing up customers in early 1999. Currently, 293 customers purchase 657 blocks of wind energy each month. Kinko's Copies purchases the largest amount - 45 blocks of wind energy each month.

Xcel Energy's (formerly Public Service Company of Colorado (PSCo)) program WindSource has had a great deal of success since marketing began in the spring of 1997. Both residential and commercial customers can participate in this program which supports grid-connected wind turbines. Residential customers can sign up for one year periods and buy wind energy at $2.50/month for 100 kWh blocks; commercial customers can sign up for three year periods. The program is projected to support 60 MW of wind capacity. Currently, approximately 22,000 residential customers and 400 commercial and municipal electric customers have signed up. Some of these include: the City of Boulder, the city and county of Denver, CF & I Steel, Coors Brewing Company, IBM, Qwest, the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Denver Mint, and the General Services Administration (GSA). Interested customers should call (800) 824-1688.

Xcel's SolarSource program is the utility's fourth green pricing program. SolarSource is a pilot program to install 15 to 25 rooftop solar energy systems on customers' homes at below-market prices during 1997. The systems will typically range in size from 2kW to 3kW. The program is funded through Colorado SunService, a unique collaboration between Xcel, other Colorado utility companies, the U.S. Department of Energy, the Utility PhotoVoltaic Group, the Colorado Governor's Office of Energy Conservation, and Solarex.

Xcel's first green pricing program, the Renewable Energy Trust, was established in 1993 to help develop renewable energy use through voluntary customer contributions. The program supports a variety of technologies, although most are off-grid photovoltaic demonstration projects. All of the installations through the Renewable Energy Trust have been deployed on nonprofit and government buildings, and Xcel expects to soon shift its efforts to installations on school buildings. Currently, they have 11,000 customers either pledging monthly amounts directly to the trust, or agreeing to have their monthly utility bill rounded up to the next highest dollar amount - called the "Round Up for Renewables." Xcel has promoted the Trust and Round Up for Renewables through bill inserts, direct mail, articles, and print and radio advertisements.

Texas

In 1999, the Austin City Council adopted a resolution calling for 5% of Austin's electricity to come from renewable sources by 2005. In response, Austin Energy, the City of Austin's municipal utility, kicked off the new millennium by inviting its 310,000 customers to sign up for GreenChoice. The program aims to provide 5% of electricity from renewable resources by 2005, raising the amount of renewable energy in the city's portfolio from 0.5% to about 2.5%. Under the program, residential and business customers opt to have the standard (fossil) fuel charge on their electric bill replaced entirely by the GreenChoice power charge of 2.85 cents per kWh, a charge that will remain fixed for 10 years, regardless of future rises. Currently, Austin Energy has over 6,500 residential customers, 125 small businesses, and 30 large businesses signed up for the service. Combined, their customers use 210 million kWh per year. In addition, Austin Energy is committing to $7.8 million in spending in each of the next 10 years to build its renewable energy program. Currently the GreenChoice program is the largest of its kind for utilities the same size as Austin Energy. It orchestrated an aggressive advertising and grassroots marketing campaign that included billboards, brochures mailed to members of Austin's environmental community, and GreenChoice booths staffed at community events and outside major businesses to sign up customers. Austin's environmental community has pledged to work diligently to ensure the program is a success.

Solar Explorer is another green pricing program created by Austin Energy. It is designed to support photovoltaics (PV) installations on commercial sites around Austin, TX, and is modeled after the SolarCurrents green pricing program offered by Detroit Edison. All of Austin Energy's customers are eligible to participate in Solar Explorer. The program officially got off the ground in 1998 and is expected to operate for six years. Approximately 1252 blocks of solar power have been sold to nearly 1000 participants to date. The utility is currently working on recruiting seventeen local commercial customers at 150-watt blocks each. Participants pay a monthly premium of $3.50 per 50-watt block and make a two-year customer commitment. So far these contributions have gone towards the construction of three grid-connected PV systems.

City Public Service (CPS) in San Antonio began offering a wind power green pricing option to all of the city's retail customers in April 2000. Power for the Windtricity program is purchased from the Desert Sky Windfarm (www.desertskywind.com). Wind energy is available in 100-kWh blocks for an additional $4.00 per month, or a premium of 4¢/kWh. Customers can choose the number of "blocks" they want up to their total monthly electric use, there is no minimum commitment. Currently, CPS has 1200 residential customers signed up for the program. Participants receive a semi-annual newsletter relating to renewable energy and the environment, a Windtricity yard sign indicating that their home uses wind energy, and a Windtricity window cling for their vehicle. CPS is in the process of evaluating the program, with changes to be introduced in 2003.

Texas-New Mexico Power Company (TNMP) provides service to more than 238,000 customers in 85 communities in Texas and New Mexico. TNMP's green pricing tariff program, Energy Ranch wind power, began accepting participants in July 2001. Unfortunately the company, citing Texas deregulation, discontinued the program January 1, 2002. First Choice Power has picked up the program and hopes to reintroduce it under a different format.

AEP (formerly West Texas Utilities) introduced their green pricing program Clear Choice in October 1997. This program allowed customers to pay a premium to purchase blocks of renewable energy supplied from Small Hydro of Texas' hydroelectric generating station near Cuero, TX. The program was developed after surveys and a conference indicated 80% of AEP's customers would be willing to pay an extra fee to support renewable energy. AEP, also citing Texas deregulation, discontinued the program on January 1, 2002.

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"In 1990 five U.S. National Laboratories reported that either fair competition plus restored research priority, or a proper accounting of its environmental benefits, could enable renewable energy to supply three-fifths of today's total U.S. energy requirements at competitive prices. Renewables could even supply one-fifth more electricity that the United States now uses."

--Natural Capitalism, 1989
Paul Hawken, Amory Lovins, and L. Hunter Lovins



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