Peak & Prairie
October / November 1999
Wind Energy Picking Up Speed in Colorado
by Kyra Epstein
Legislation to restructure the electric utility industry in Colorado is not likely to pass anytime soon. But even without legislated changes, Colorado is showing the rest of the country how to mount a successful green energy marketing campaign.
“Green energy” is a term used to describe energy produced by sources that cause minimal environmental damage, such as wind and the sun. Because the coal-burning electric industry is a major cause of air pollution, switching to electricity produced by cleaner sources would substantially reduce pollution. In Colorado, 95 percent of electricity produced is made by burning coal.
The Sierra Club and other area organizations have been working for years on many fronts to convince Public Service Company of Colorado to invest in clean energy for Colorado. One of these efforts — The Grassroots Campaign for Wind Power in Colorado — is an effort that has been unusually successful.
Between 1994 and 1996, after many unsuccessful tries to legally encourage a regulatory mandate for wind power, grassroots organizations agreed to participate in a program proposed by Public Service. The program is a green pricing program — a program where customers voluntarily pay extra on their monthly bill for energy from wind energy.
A community-based marketing campaign to educate customers about the environmental impacts associated with their energy choices resulted, implemented by the Land and Water Fund of the Rockies and supported by other organizations like the Sierra Club.
“This is the largest green marketing program in the United States — no one has really done this before,” said Sierra Club Energy Chair Linda Berti. “Our involvement in assisting the campaign is based on the enormous benefits of renewable wind energy to our air quality and the reduction in greenhouse gases. The wind power that a customer buys will displace an equivalent amount of power generated from fossil fuels, usually coal.”
And the program does seem to be bringing wind power to Colorado. Green Marketing Coordinator at the Land and Water Fund of the Rockies John Halley said that the grassroots campaign has been much more successful than originally predicted.
Halley said that in just more than a year, the Land and Water Fund alone has encouraged more than 400 sign ups for wind power. Including other community efforts, more than 1,200 people have signed up.
For an extra $300 a year, a business can prevent 24,000 pounds of carbon dioxide, a major greenhouse gas, 60 pounds of sulfur dioxide, a contributor to acid rain and the brown cloud, and 80 pounds of nitrogen oxides, which contribute to smog. Put another way, the pollution saved by that $300 is the equivalent that an automobile emits with 24,000 miles of driving.
“We’d like to transfer this approach to other cities and other areas,” said Halley. “It’s basically a community-based program with education and outreach, letting people know they have green power choice.”
Though the marketing campaign has primarily focused on businesses, residential customers are also encouraged to sign up for wind power as well. The minimum purchase of wind power costs $2.50 a month, and has the same environmental benefits as not driving a car 2,400 miles. If you would like more information on wind energy or how to sign up to buy wind energy from Public Service, visit the Land and Water Fund of the Rockies’ Web site at http://www.lawfund.org/programs/wind.htm#grassroots, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory’s Green Power Network site at www.eren.doc.gov/freenpower or Public Service’s Web page at www.psco.com. Or, call Linda Berti at 303-320-6925.
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