Corporations Seek Green Power

ByABC News
April 20, 2001, 5:22 PM

April 26 -- Higher energy prices stemming from OPEC cutbacks in crude oil output or California's disastrous experiment with energy deregulation could have one positive result they could hasten the day that clean, renewable energy is commercially competitive.

And that day could come within the next decade, say renewable energy advocates, as the declining price of electricity from "green" sources intersects with rising prices from conventional power plants.

Meanwhile, the market for clean power is getting a kick-start from 10 large companies, including IBM, General Motors, Kinko's and DuPont. The companies have joined an effort called the Green Power Market Development group to buy 1,000 megawatts of renewable energy, enough to power a mid-sized city.

The companies account for 8 percent of all electricity consumption in the United States.

A Hedge Against Higher Prices

"That creates a significant demand for new sources of renewable energy, considering it's just 10 companies," said Ben Paulos of the Energy Foundation, a San Franciso-based partnership of major foundations with an interest in sustainable energy.

The 1,000 megawatt goal represents 7 percent of their current demand, said Jennifer Finlay of the World Resources Institute. The Washington-based nonprofit is organizing the green power initiative in tandem with Business for Social Responsibility in San Francisco.

The goal is doable, but ambitious, Finlay said, given where the companies are with their energy planning.

A reason for her optimism is that corporations no longer make energy decisions solely on the basis of price. Big businesses see diversification of their energy supplies as a hedge against skyrocketing prices and scarce supplies, she said.

And the 10 companies in the network want to be seen as proactive on issues like climate change and energy use, she added, because shareholders and advocacy groups increasingly demand corporate practices that accommodate the environment.

"They want to on the cutting edge and push [green power] over the edge and into competitiveness," she said. "Renewables have public relations value, as well as clean air and climate benefits. So we're trying to come up with a model to monetize these benefits" to make it easier for the companies to justify purchases of energy powered by windmills, solar cells and other earth-friendly technologies.