By Rick Laezman

When given the choice, a growing number of retail customers in the Northwest prefer renewable energy to fossil fuel generated power. According to a report published by the Renewable Northwest Project (RNP), the amount of "green power" purchased by retail customers in the Northwest has more than tripled in the past year, from 47.1 million kWh to 162.9 million kWh.

The total purchase is equivalent to the annual output from 94 (600 kW) wind turbines. According to the report, the number of customers who purchased green power in the past year has also more than doubled, from 18,675 to 42,022.

Powerful Choices III examines programs offered by twenty-three utilities, which give customers the choice of an environmentally friendly power source, such as wind, solar, landfill gas, or low-impact hydro. It cites Oregon’s Electricity Restructuring Law (SB 1149), which requires the state’s investor-owned utilities to offer their customers at least one renewable power option.

It also credits Washington’s House Bill 2247, which imposed a requirement that by January 1, 2002, all of the state’s electric utilities with more than 25,000 meters offer their customers (at least quarterly) a voluntary choice to purchase electricity generated from alternative energy resources.

According to the report, utilities are more effectively marketing their green power offerings and educating customers about the benefits of these programs. The recent energy crisis in the West has also heightened customers’ awareness of the benefits of alternative energy sources.

Their preference for "clean power" has also contributed to the momentum by increasing the demand for the construction of new renewable energy generating facilities. EC