Green Energy Stars Get Their Props

Companies and utilities recognized for commitment to renewable energy

Recently, Austin has again taken center stage, oiled up, and flexed its green energy muscles before a national audience. Only now, an increasingly renewable-powered city is good-looking – not simply for environmental or domestic security reasons, but because green energy like wind power is less costly and much more fiscally stable than traditional fossil fuel sources like natural gas.

The EPA was in town this week along with the Department of Energy for the 10th National Green Power Marketing Conference, where they gave props to national renewable energy leaders, several of which call Austin home. A new EPA report released during the conference found that voluntary green power purchases are up 1,000% in five years, with large corporate purchasers driving the growth. One reason is that the cost of renewable energy for utilities has been falling by 8% a year on average, and wind-generated power has become far more competitive against natural gas, especially in Texas and Colorado, where it's now cheaper than gas.

Advanced Micro Devices, upon being recognized as the largest corporate green power purchaser in Texas and the fifth largest in the U.S., announced that it will use renewables to power 100% of its 12 offices, as well as its new, environmentally controversial Austin Campus, planned for location atop the Barton springs watershed and scheduled to open in 2007. Whole Foods Market, ranking eighth on the EPA's list of Top 25 EPA Green Power Partners, was also applauded for purchasing or generating more than 20% of its total national power load from green power sources. In California, Colorado, and New Mexico, Whole Foods Markets are 100% green-powered, and five stores in California and New Jersey have solar panels. In the public sector, not only is AISD the only public school district in the nation to be featured on the EPA's Top 25 list (its second time), but it's the 14th largest overall purchaser of renewable energy in the nation. "AISD believes in being good stewards of our resources. It is also important for our students that we set an example of respect and responsibility for the environment," said Superintendent Pat Forgione.

Also this week, Austin Energy received a 2005 Wind Power Pioneer Award from the DOE at the American Public Power Association's 2005 Customer Connections Conference in Kansas City. The award is co-sponsored by the DOE's Wind Powering America program and the American Public Power Association, which represents the country's more than 2,000 community- and state-owned electric utilities.

At the national green power conference in Austin, local and national environmental groups were ready to challenge cities around the country to a race to be the one powered with the most renewable energy. Solar Austin and the Union of Concerned Scientists issued the Energy Freedom Challenge: America's Race to Independence Through Renewable Energy, as part of the DOE's Million Solar Roof program. They plan to push cities to obtain 50% of their energy from renewable sources like solar, wind, and biomass by the year 2025. For more info, see www.millionsolarroofs.org and www.eere.energy.gov/greenpower/conference.

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KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

environment, Department of Energy, National Green Power Marketing Conference, EPA, green power, wind energy, solar energy, biomass, Advanced Micro Devices, Barton Springs watershed, Austin Energy, Green Choice, Craig Garcia, Whole Foods Market, Top 25 EPA Green Power Partners, Pat Forgione, austin ISD, Solar Austin and the Union of Concerned Scientist, The Energy Freedom Challenge, America's Race to Independence Through Renewable Energy

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