Voluntary green power purchases continue to grow slowly but steadily as a share of US electricity consumption. PowerSource says that in 2013, renewable energy accounted for 1.7 percent of total energy sales by volume. Retail providers have led the charge, offering a wide range of purchasing options with varying percentages of renewable energy content. Competitive energy sold in restructured states comprises about 25 percent of the market, with green power growing far faster in competitive markets than in regulated markets where utilities own generation.
Buying Green Power
Retail energy shopping websites aimed at small business and residential customers often display the renewable content of the products they track. Rather than picking products from a list, larger businesses or municipal aggregators often negotiate with or solicit bids from suppliers. PowerSource describes an energy auction system through which the Western Pennsylvania Energy Consortium has purchased renewables on behalf of its 29 member communities since 2007. Under this system, the buyer decides the amount of energy it wants to purchase – and sometimes the renewable content (or minimum renewable content) – and solicits bids from suppliers. Over the course of the auction, the suppliers then offer to sell the fixed volume of electricity at decreasing price levels, with the winner offering the lowest price. In the most recent auction in 2013, the group acquired 30 percent of its energy from renewables and paid “the cheapest power prices in decades.”
The group currently ranks 12 among municipal groups participating in the EPA Green Power Partnership (GPP) – a program that provides guidance on how and where to procure green power and recognizes partners for their purchases. Partners are allowed to display the GPP logo to demonstrate their participation in the program, and top purchasers are recognized for their efforts. DOE offers similar services in its Green Power Network, including purchasing resources and guidelines to help renewable energy buyers, though there is less of a focus on public recognition.