Penn Ranks in Top 25 Green Energy Leaders
It is no longer enough to just conserve energy. More and more corporations, government agencies and entire cities are making large, long-term commitments to ensure that the power they do use comes from renewable sources. To recognize these trendsetters, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency publishes a quarterly list of the top American users of green power: organizations that generate their own renewable energy, buy it from suppliers, or purchase offset credits to compensate for their traditional energy use. To put things in perspective, the average U.S. home consumes about 10,656 kilowatt-hours (kWh) of electricity a year. That means number 25 on the list buys enough green energy to power more than 14,000 homes.
The most direct method to make energy consumption more sustainable is for a user to generate its own power by, for example, installing solar panels or by burning waste gas. A major do-it-yourself project, however, might not fall within the expertise of, say, a clothing retailer, so some entities hire outside operators to do it for them.
A second path is to purchase power directly from alternative energy producers, such as a nearby wind farm. The third and most common route is buying credits to offset the amount of conventional energy an organization is using. The bulk of these trades is orchestrated by brokers such as 3Degrees and Sterling Planet, which make a commission. For example, buyers can request 300 million kWh of wind power from Texas. Once energy enters the grid, it cannot be isolated, so even the biggest buyers aren't literally powering their air conditioners with breeze-buffeted turbines. But offsets are like certified environmental karma: what comes around in the end is cleaner power production.
19. University of Pennsylvania Philadelphia, PA
Education 193 million green kWh, 46% of total power used
This Ivy League university has greened its halls by locking into a 10-year renewable energy credit contract with Community Energy (now owned by international giant Iberdrola Renewables), which has a wind farm in Bear Creek, Pa. Since that first purchase, the school has also expanded into the national market, where buyers can get more offset credit per dollar, according to Dan Garofalo, the school’s environmental sustainability coordinator. He admits that the energy is not cheap now but says that “it’s very, very difficult to anticipate what energy prices are going to do.” School administrators have been able to justify the price tag by upgrading to more efficient cooling systems for the campus. Garofalo praises other sustainability practices such as recycling, at the same time noting that efficiencies and credits—“the stuff that people don’t see”—have a much bigger impact on the environment.