While corporations and organizations in the U.S. and Canada continue to sign up for green power purchases at a rapidly increasing rate, the jump-start for many of the larger-scale purchases of renewable energy came from policy directives in Washington, D.C., and Ottawa. And those directives continue to this day, as efforts are made for renewable energy development - including wind - to continue.
The latest example is the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which recently closed a deal making it the first federal agency to purchase renewable energy equivalent to 100% of its annual electricity needs.
The agency recently signed a contract with 3 Phases Energy Services that went into effect September 1 to purchase more than 100 million kWh in renewable energy certificates (RECs), created when power producers generate electricity using wind turbines. This contract extends annual green power purchases to more than 190 EPA facilities nationwide. The new purchase brings the agency total to nearly 300 million kWh per year, which is equivalent to 100% of the electricity EPA uses nationwide annually. The contract, which continues through Sept. 30, 2007, supports the development of wind farms in California, South Dakota, Oklahoma and Wyoming.
"At EPA, we don't just talk the talk - we walk the walk," says EPA Administrator Stephen L. Johnson. "For 35 years, EPA has been greening our nation's landscape. By committing to alternative, renewable power sources, the agency is meeting the president's call to green our nation's energy."
Significant government purchases of renewable energy got their start with Executive Order 13123 of June 1999, which committed agencies to "strive to expand the use of renewable energy within its facilities...and [purchase] electricity from renewable energy sources."
But in sheer volume, the U.S. Air Force purchases the largest amount of green power of any government agency, with 1,043,558 MWh. In fiscal year 2005, the U.S. Air Force purchased over 40% of the renewable power purchased by the federal government.
Dyess Air Force Base in Texas is the first Department of Defense installation to be 100% powered with green energy.
The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) is one of the largest green power purchasers in the country. It is buying green power or RECs totaling more than 160,000 MWh. The National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Colorado is purchasing 30,000 MWh of renewable energy certificates to cover 100% of its power needs.
Other top 25 federal government operations are the U.S. General Services Administration Northeast Region in New York City (92,000 MWh) and the U.S. Army's Ft. Carson in Colorado (40,000 MWh).
The green power purchasing program began in 1999, when EPA's Region 9 laboratory, in Richmond, Calif., became the first federal facility to purchase green power equal to its total annual electricity consumption.
Through the Purchase of Electricity from Renewable Resources (PERR) Program, the Government of Canada is committed to purchasing 20% of its electricity needs (approximately 450 GWh/year) from renewable resources, such as wind and biomass. The PERR Program is a joint initiative between Public Works Government Services Canada, Natural Resources Canada and Environment Canada (NRCan).
Canadian programs started in 1994, following a recommendation by the Task Force on Economic Instruments and Disincentives to Sound Environmental Practices. Natural Resources Canada studied the feasibility of having the federal government buy some of its electricity from renewable energy sources. After consulting with electrical utilities and the renewable energy industry, NRCan announced its intention to start pilot projects to purchase electricity from renewable sources, including wind power.
In December 1997, NRCan began purchasing electricity from Calgary's electric system. The 10-year agreement with ENMAX is for the production of 10,000 MWh of electricity from renewable sources for NRCan's Alberta facilities.
Environment Canada also signed an agreement for 2,000 MWh hours of green electricity for their electricity requirements in Alberta. In September 2000, NRCan signed a 10-year agreement with SaskPower, Saskatchewan's electric utility, and is currently receiving about 32,000 MWh annually of wind power for its facilities in Saskatchewan.
Early in 2001, NRCan signed an agreement with Maritime Electric from Prince Edward Island for purchasing electricity from ERES. This 10-year agreement is for the production of 13,000 MWh of wind power annually.
It is expected that the federal government will purchase an additional 400,000 MWh of wind energy, derived primarily from Nova Scotia, Ontario, New Brunswick and Alberta.