EPA green power purchasers rankings highlights users of wind, other renewables

7 March 2014 by Carl Levesque Carl Levesque

One of the big stories of the last few months is the number of power purchase agreements (PPAs) for wind that have been signed—60 in 2013. There’s a related story, and it too, highlights an indicator of renewable energy growth, not to mention its popularity. While 8,000 MW of PPAs were signed during 2013 (as reported and listed in AWEA’s 4Q 2013 quarterly report), the type of power offtakers continues to diversify. Not only are electric utilities proactively signing up for low cost wind contracts, but industrial and commercial corporations are now going directly to the source by signing power contracts with wind projects.  This direct corporate purchasing trend is emerging alongside the long-time use of renewable energy certificates (RECs) as a way for corporations to be powered by wind and renewable energy.

Recognizing these top corporate purchasers of renewable energy, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Green Power Partnership is a voluntary program that encourages organizations to use green power as a way to reduce the environmental impacts associated with electricity use. Indicative of renewable energy’s popularity, the Partnership currently has more than 1,500 partner organizations voluntarily using billions of kilowatt-hours of green power annually. Partners include a wide variety of organizations such as Fortune 500 companies, small- and medium-sized businesses, local, state, and federal governments, and colleges and universities.

Every quarter, EPA puts out rankings of the green power purchasers. It’s been doing it for years now, and so perhaps they don’t get the ink that they deserve these days.

So let’s take a look. The lists are fun to check out, partially because a host of familiar business names populate them. Leading the Top 100 overall list is Intel Corp., which offsets 100 percent of its electricity with the purchase of RECs equivalent to 3.185 billion kWh. Microsoft takes the number two spot at 1.935 billion kWh (80 percent of electricity use). The whole top five:

1. Intel Corp., 3,100,850,000 kWh (100 percent)
2. Microsoft Corp. 1,935,551,000 kWh (80 percent)
3. Kohl’s Department Stores, 1,536,529,000 (105 percent)
4. Whole Foods Market, 800,257,623 (107 percent)
5. Wal-Mart Stores, 751,431,792 (4 percent)

Historically, green-power purchases have generally been for renewable energy certificates (RECs). The vast majority of purchasers still buy RECs, of course, but things have changed a bit over the last couple of years. Speaking of those 60 wind energy PPAs signed in 2013, most of them, of course, are between project owners and utilities, but some of them involve direct purchases by corporations and other entities. The EPA program has taken note of that trend.

The EPA rankings slice and dice the purchases and purchasers in a host of ways, from retail and federal government to universities and tech companies. Appropriately, nowadays EPA provides information on entities with long-term power contracts. Google, a trailblazer in this area, has a couple of contracts on the list, and there are a host of familiar names such as some of those listed above as well as several universities, SC Johnson & Son, A&T Services, government agencies, and many others.

Another noteworthy chunk of factoids from a wind perspective is the top entities that have long-term contracts for power and RECs for wind specifically:

1. Google Inc., 380,194,000 kWh
2. University of Oklahoma, 341, 327,000 kWh
3. Ohio State U., 141,000,000 kWh
4. Oklahoma State University, 110,000,000 kWh
5. State of Illinois, 51,000,000 kWh
6. Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission, 50,819,000 kWh
7. U.S. General Services Administration, 44,347,091 kWh
8. Dell Inc., 40,528,000 kWh
9. SC Johnson & Son, 31,500,000 kWh
10. Sundance Square, 30,334,826 kWh

The next quarterly rankings are set to come out April 21.