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Several public power utilities make NREL top 10 lists for green pricing programs


From the August 10, 2017 issue of Public Power Daily

Originally published August 9, 2017

By Ethan Howland
Contributing Writer

Several public power utilities are included on top 10 lists compiled by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory for utility green pricing programs. The recently released rankings are for 2016.

NREL noted that utility green pricing programs allow homes and businesses to procure green power through their electric utility. Since 2000, NREL has compiled data on these utility green pricing programs and released annual top 10 lists to recognize outstanding programs.

Using information provided by utilities, NREL, a Department of Energy lab, developed top 10 rankings of utility green pricing programs for 2016 in several categories including total sales, total number of customer participants, and participation rate (the percentage of utility customers that participated in green pricing programs).

With respect to top green power sales (as of December 2016), investor-owned utility Portland General Electric remained in the top spot, selling more than 1.5 million megawatt-hours of renewable energy through its voluntary green power program, NREL reported.

California-based public power utility SMUD was ranked second on the top 10 list for green power sales (741,337 MWh), Texas-based public power utility Austin Energy came in at number four (733,070 MWh), the Tennessee Valley Authority was ranked in the eighth spot (232,127 MWh) and California’s Silicon Valley Power came in at number nine with 206,692 MWh.

The report also includes a top 10 list for green power sales rates. Six of the 10 utilities were public power utilities. SMUD was ranked second (7.20%), Silicon Valley Power was ranked third (6.03%), Austin Energy was ranked fourth (5.69%), Wisconsin’s River Falls Municipal Utilities was ranked in the sixth spot (4.3%), California’s Alameda Municipal Power earned the ninth spot (2.92%) and Wisconsin’s Stoughton Utilities was in the 10th spot (2.70%)

Meanwhile, public power utilities filled six of the top ten slots for green power participation rates, with SMUD coming in at the number two spot with an 11.72 percent participation rate, River Falls Municipal Utilities in the number four spot at 9.60 percent, Silicon Valley Power in the number six spot (8.13 percent), Alameda Municipal Power in the number eight spot at 6.27 percent, Naperville Public Utilities – Electric, which is based in Illinois, coming in at the number nine spot at 5.53 percent and Stoughton Utilities in the 10th spot at 5 percent.

In a July 27 news release, Alameda Municipal Power noted that the public power utility’s Alameda Green program gives residents and businesses the option to match up to 100 percent of their monthly electricity use with renewable energy sourced from wind, biogas and solar projects. Currently, the program’s participants include 2,100 residents and 70 businesses.

“The program recently committed to sourcing even more renewable energy from California to help drive clean energy development in the state and the region,” the utility said.

Meanwhile, with respect to top green power program participants, SMUD was number four on that top 10 list (71,970), while Austin Energy came in at the number 10 spot (14,721).

Additional information about NREL’s green power market research is available here.

Report offers status report on state renewable portfolio standards

Meanwhile, another DOE national laboratory -- the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory – in July released its 2017 annual status report on U.S. renewable portfolio standards.

The report said that roughly half of all growth in U.S. renewable electricity generation and capacity since 2000 is associated with state RPS requirements.

Nationally, the role of RPS policies has diminished over time, representing 44% of all U.S. renewable energy capacity additions in 2016. However, the report noted that within particular regions, RPS policies continue to play a central role in supporting renewables growth, constituting 70-90% of 2016 capacity additions in the West, Mid-Atlantic, and Northeast.

The report said that meeting RPS demand growth will require roughly a 50% increase in U.S. renewable energy generation by 2030, equating to 55 gigawatts of new capacity. To meet future RPS demand, total U.S. renewable energy generation will need to reach 13% of electricity sales by 2030 (compared to 10% today), though other drivers will also continue to influence renewable energy growth, the report said.

The report also addressed renewable energy credit pricing trends. It said that prices for RECs used to meet general RPS obligations fell in most markets in 2016, as surplus RPS supplies emerged in many regions. Price trends for solar RECs were more varied, “with a particularly pronounced drop” in Maryland, the report went on to say.

RPS compliance costs totaled $3 billion in 2015, which equates to 1.6 percent of average retail electricity bills in RPS states, according to the report. The report said that 2015 is the most recent year for which relatively complete data are available. While total U.S. RPS compliance costs rose from 2014, future cost growth in most RPS states will be limited by cost containment mechanisms, the report said.

The report comes as states have been increasing and extending their renewable requirements, with California increasing its RPS to 50 percent by 2030, Hawaii setting a 100 percent mandate by 2045, New York increasing its renewable requirements to 50 percent by 2030 and Oregon setting a similar target by 2040. Connecticut is considering increasing its RPS to 30 percent by 2030 from 20 percent by 2020.

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