In the quest for competitiveness in mainstream energy markets, higher costs continue to be a challenge for renewable power. However, residents of at least one city in California don’t seem to mind the added expense.

A relatively young program in the city of Palo Alto allows residents there to purchase 100 percent of their electricity from renewable power. The PaloAltoGreen Program has propelled the San Francisco suburb to leadership status in the national green power movement. After a 5 percent increase in participation in 2007, 20 percent of the city-owned utility’s customers now subscribe to the voluntary program.

To participate, residents pay an additional 1.5 cents per kilowatt-hour (kWh) on their utility bill. According to the city’s Web site, this amounts to an additional $9.75 for residential users, based on an average monthly usage of 650 kWh. Even with the increase, however, the city boasts that this still is 30 percent lower than standard rates charged by Pacific Gas & Electric, the leading privately owned utility in Northern California.

Of the renewable power that the city purchases, 97.5 percent comes from wind, and 2.5 percent comes from solar. The city gets all of its renewable power from California sources.