The Complete Guide For Green Power – Part 1
Green Power Defined
The term green power is used in a number of different ways. In the broadest sense, green power refers to environmentally preferable energy and energy technologies, both electric and thermal. This definition of green power includes many types of power, from solar photovoltaic systems to wind turbines to fuel cells for automobiles.
In this guide, green power refers specifically to electricity generated from a subset of renewable resources, including solar, wind, geothermal, biogas, biomass, and low-impact hydroelectric sources. These electricity sources are derived from natural resources that replenish themselves over short periods of time, including the sun, wind, moving water, organic plant and waste material (biomass), and the Earth’s heat (geothermal).
Note that the terms green power, environmentally preferable, clean power, and renewable energy may be used in slightly different ways, which differ primarily according to the varying assessments of the environmental impacts of harnessing specific resources and of the relative significance of each impact. The exact definitions of these terms, while always important, take on added significance when dealing with state and federal government requirements or determining eligibility for government and utility incentives. For more discussion of how each of the organizations that collaborated on this document defines green power, please refer to their Web sites, listed in Chapter 10, Resources for Additional Information.
The Benefits and Costs of Green Power
Green power can offer organizations a variety of environmental, financial, stakeholder relations, economic development, and national security benefits. This Guide is designed to help buyers navigate the costs, contracting challenges, and public relations risks.
• Reduce environmental impacts. Conventional electricity generation is a significant source of greenhouse gas emissions as well as the single largest industrial source of air pollution in the U.S. The emissions from conventional electricity generation contribute to a number of serious environmental problems, including acid rain, fine particulate pollution, and climate change. Green power generates less pollution than conventional power and produces no net increase in greenhouse gas emissions, helping protect human health and the environment.
• Provide a hedge against risks posed by:
• Electricity price volatility. Purchasing electricity generated by renewable energy sources may provide the buyer protection against unstable or rising fossil fuel prices, for example through long-term, fixed-price supply contracts directly with developers or generators. Organizations can also encourage stable electricity prices by supporting new renewable power resources on the local grid, thereby diversifying the energy mix with resources that are not subject to the rise and fall of fuel costs.
• Fuel supply disruptions. On-site renewable generation can reduce the risk of disruptions in fuel supplies, like natural gas, resulting from transportation difficulties or international conflict.
• Additional environmental regulation. To address global climate change and regional air quality issues, federal and state regulations could effectively increase the price of conventional electricity, making green power financially more attractive.
• Meet organizational environmental objectives. Reducing an organization’s environmental impact is one of the main motivations for buying green power and is often important to stakeholders. For example, buying green power can help reduce greenhouse gas emissions from electricity consumption. If an organization is interested in creating a third-party certified environmental management system (e.g., ISO-14001 certification for environmental performance) or is conducting an organization-wide inventory of its greenhouse gas emissions, a program for reducing emissions will be an important part of this certification process. increase the price of conventional electricity, making green power financially more attractive.
• Meet organizational environmental objectives. Reducing an organization’s environmental impact is one of the main motivations for buying green power and is often important to stakeholders. For example, buying green power can help reduce greenhouse gas emissions from electricity consumption. If an organization is interested in creating a third-party certified environmental management system (e.g., ISO-14001 certification for environmental performance) or is conducting an organization-wide inventory of its greenhouse gas emissions, a program for reducing emissions will be an important part of this certification process.
Demonstrate civic leadership. Being among the first in a community to purchase green power is a demonstration of civic leadership. It makes a statement that an organization is willing to act on its stated environmental or social goals. These purchases also demonstrate an organization’s responsiveness to its customers, the majority of whom favor renewable energy. See Chapter 10, Resources for Additional Information, for details.
• Generate positive publicity. Buying green power affords an opportunity for and builds on existing public recognition and public relations activities. Companies that are in the public eye need to be responsive to the concerns of environmentally conscious customers, shareholders, regulators, and other constituents. Programs promoting green power, such as EPA’s Green Power Partnership or Green-e Marketplace, provide assistance in reaching broad audiences to convey the benefits of green power purchases.
Improve employee morale. Progressive action and leadership on environmental issues like renewable energy may improve employee morale, which in turn can reduce employee turnover, attract new employees, and improve productivity. In a survey of 464 organizations, sponsored by the National Wind Coordinating Collaborative, improving employee morale was cited as the third most important motivation for buying green power.
• Differentiate products or services. By purchasing green power, a company may be able to differentiate its products or services by, for example, offering them as “made with certified renewable energy.” Purchasers of green power can also join their power supplier to market their products together. In addition, purchasers of products certified by the Center for Resource Solutions’ Green-e Marketplace program can display the Green-e logo on their product packaging to indicate a commitment to using 100 percent green power in the manufacturing of the product. Many companies are also finding that producing their products with green power gives them an advantage in selling to their business customers who are trying to “green” their supply chain.
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