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Clean power: More than PR fluff?  

2007-03-26 10:56:04|  分类: 默认分类 |  标签: |举报 |字号 订阅

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Clean power: More than PR fluff?

Hundreds of companies are going green withrenewable power - and environmentalists say it's more than justbunk.

By Steve Hargreaves,CNNMoney.com staff writer
March 20 2007: 3:12 PM EDT

NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- Corporate America is doing backflipsover renewable energy.

Google(Charts)announced plans last October to get 30 percent of its electricityfrom the sun. Wal-Mart(Charts)put out a call for solar panels last December in a bid toeventually get all its energy from renewable sources.

Clean power: More than PR fluff? - liblog - Liblog 第九传媒
Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards talks about his planfor America to conserve energy. (March 20)
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WellsFargo (Charts)pays a premium on 42 percent of their electric bill that goes tosupport clean energy, with Johnson &Johnson (Charts),DuPont(Charts),HSBC, and Cisco(Charts)among some 600 other companies in a similar arangement.

Now this all sounds well and good, but how far will this reallygo in nursing the nascent renewable energy field, and how much isjust public relations fluff?

"It's 98 percent real and 2 percent PR," said Mike Eckhart,president of the American Council on Renewable Energy, a groupformed to promote the use of green energy. "The CEOs can't just paylip service anymore, the employees read the papers too."

Eckhart held out Wal-Mart's plan to buy what he said weremassive amounts of solar panels (Wal-Mart wouldn't say how many),as an example of corporate America's commitment to renewablepower.

"These are our customers, and they are starting to buy in verylarge amounts," he said. 'And there are thousands of corporationsin this country, when they start to move as a herd, it's huge."

As a representative from the renewable power business, Eckhartcould be expected to paint the best picture possible.

But other environmental groups were also cautiously optimisticon corporate America's newfound love of all things green.

"It's absolutely no substitute for a federal renewable energystandard or a cap on carbon emissions," said John Coequyt, anenergy policy specialist at Greenpeace. "But it's certainly apositive first step, and I think their commitment to climate changeis pretty sincere at this point."

The commitment generally comes in two forms: installingrenewable energy directly at a property, or paying someone else toproduce it.

In the case of big-box retail stores, with massive roof spaceand relatively little electricity use, installing solar power makessense.

Coequyt said all sorts of big-box retailers are taking advantageof state incentives to offset the costs. "For those companies, thedecisions being made are purely economical," he said.

For large scale industrial users, or firms with less room toactually generate power on site, paying someone else is anotheroption.

Known as renewable energy credits, the company pays a premium onits electric bill, or part of its bill. That money then goes toproducers of renewable power, kind of like a subsidy, netting themabove-market rates for their power.

"It's a very effective means of bringing on new renewablecapacity," said Gabe Petlin, a program director at 3 Phases Energy,which brokers deals between renewable energy producers andcompanies. "Without it, (the producers) are really left sellingtheir electricity as a pure commodity, like coal, which ischeaper."

3 Phases and its competitors also run similar programs withutilities, allowing residential customers to pay a little more ontheir electric bill to support clean power.

The ultimate goal is that enough people will use renewableenergy so producers have the economies of scale that will reducecosts, or that costs of producing electricity from fossil fuelswill rise, or some type of combination of the two.

In the meantime, consumers that opt for the program get thepiece of mind knowing they helped nurture the industry.

"We need development of new energy sources and we wanted to bepart of that," said Mary Wenzel, vice president of environmentalaffairs at Wells Fargo. "It's good business for Wells Fargo and ourshareholders."

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