The US Department of Energy's (DOE) National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) released its annual ranking of leading utility green power programs. Under these voluntary programs, consumers can choose to help support additional electricity production from renewable resources, such as solar and wind. More than 800 utilities across the United States offer these programs

Using information provided by utilities, NREL develops Top 10 rankings of utility programs in the following categories: total sales of renewable energy to program participants, total number of customer participants, customer participation rate, green power sales as a percentage of total utility retail electricity sales and the lowest price premium charged for a green power program using new renewable resources.

Ranked by renewable energy sales, the green power program of Austin (Texas) Energy is first in the nation, followed by Portland (Ore.) General Electric, PacifiCorp, Florida Power & Light and Xcel Energy.

Ranked by customer participation rates, the top utilities are City of Palo Alto (Calif.) Utilities, Lenox (Iowa) Municipal Utilities, Silicon Valley Power (Calif.), Portland General Electric and Sacramento (Calif.) Municipal Utility District.

Customer choice programs are proving to be a powerful stimulus for growth in renewable energy supply. In 2007, total utility green power sales exceeded 4.5 billion kilowatt-hours, about a 20 percent increase over 2006. Approximately 600,000 customers are participating in utility programs nationwide.

Utility green pricing programs are one segment of a larger green power marketing industry that counts Fortune 500 companies, government agencies and colleges and universities among its customers, and helps support more than 3,000 MW of new renewable electricity generation capacity.

NREL analysts attribute the success of many programs to persistence in marketing and creative marketing strategies, including in some cases, utility partnerships with independent green power marketers. In addition, the rate premium that customers pay for green power continues to drop, and more electric customers are choosing to use green power.