FOR THE FIRST TIME IN DECADES, A GROWING NUMBER of consumers are able to choose who supplies their electric power and, perhaps more importantly, where that power comes from. Evidence is mounting that this ability to exercise choice may give a long-needed shot in the arm to the deployment of renewable energy technologies.
National polls consistently reveal that between 40 and 70 percent of those sampled say they would pay a premium for environmental protection or for renewable energy, and utility company surveys reinforce those findings. %n1%n Utilities, affiliates and independent power marketers have all begun to act on this widespread public support, offering environmentally preferred power products and services through various "green power" offerings.
The source of power is important because the electric power industry is a leading contributor to the nation's air quality problems. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, electricity generation is responsible for 66 percent of sulfur dioxide, 29 percent of nitrogen oxide, 36 percent of man-made carbon dioxide and 21 percent of mercury emissions. %n2%n
Whether green power marketing will add substantially to existing renewable capacity levels, in the absence of policy actions, remains uncertain. So far, states with pilot programs or mandated direct access for electricity supply have seen a marked increase in green power marketing, with multiple services and product offerings coming both from utilities and competitive retail power suppliers.