US companies link up for green power

Posted: 13 October 2003

In the absence of support by the US government for clean energy, a number of major companies have taken it upon themselves to jumpstart the renewable energy market place. Curtis Runyon reports.

In the past few years the US government has consistently failed to promote cleaner energy production - loosening pollution standards, refusing to tighten fuel-efficiency requirements, and rejecting the Kyoto Protocol to fight global warming.

Despite this, 12 corporations announced in September that they had collectively purchased or signed contracts for a total of 97 megawatts (MW) of energy from renewable sources -- enough to power 73,000 homes. While that is a small share of US energy consumption, it is a substantial boost for the country's fledgling green energy market.

Since 2000, the corporations - Alcoa, Cargill Dow, Delphi, Dow Chemical, DuPont, General Motors, IBM, Interface, Johnson & Johnson, Kinko's, Pitney Bowes, and Staples - have joined with the World Resources Institute (WRI) to jumpstart the green power market. The purchases are expected to have a significant impact on the market.

"We joined this partnership in 2003 to help us diversify our energy purchasing," said William Stavropoulos, president and CEO of Dow Chemical. "By working together, these 12 businesses can have a tremendous impact on supporting and developing renewable energy markets."

Green goal

The group of companies, convened by WRI as the Green Power Market Development Group, has a goal of purchasing 1,000 MW of new green power by 2010 at a cost-competitive rate. That's equivalent to a coal-fired power plant.

Recent purchases mark an important step for renewable energy in the United States. Three of the companies -- Staples, Pitney Bowes, and Kinko's -- are now purchasing 10 per cent green power for their operations. "The Green Power Group is beginning to make green power markets work for corporate buyers," said Charles Holliday, DuPont chairman and CEO.

Members of the group are implementing green power deals at 250 facilities in 22 states and the District of Columbia. The companies have pursued an array of green energy solutions, from rooftop solar power to capturing methane leaking from landfills for use as fuel.

The projects will eliminate 435,500 metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions annually, about the same as that absorbed in a year by 86 million trees -- or a forest the size of Shenandoah National Park in the United States.

"A lot of these companies are working on this to get ahead of the curve," said Jennifer Layke, senior associate at WRI. "They want to reduce emissions so that they are well-positioned to address global warming, and they want to reduce the risks of being entirely dependent on a volatile fossil fuel energy market."

September's announcement included the largest-ever purchase of electricity produced by fuel cells, one of the biggest contracts for wind-generated power in the United States, and the largest ever sale of renewable energy certificates.

Curtis Runyan is managing editor of WRI Features, from which this article was taken.