Green Power Partnership

Communities are Leading the Way on Renewable Energy

By switching to green power, cities and towns across the country are taking a leading role in taking action against climate change. Green power is electricity that comes from a subset of clean, renewable resources like solar or wind power. Many communities have discovered these clean sources of energy are important tools in cutting their carbon footprint, supporting a growing domestic clean energy economy, and better protecting our air and public health.

Today, fossil-fueled power plants are the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions, contributing to a third of the U.S. total emissions. Most electricity generated today comes from fossil fuels but a small and growing percentage is generated using renewable sources. Since President Obama took office, wind energy has tripled and solar has grown ten-fold. In 2015, a full 60% of the new energy that gets added to our electrical grid will come from wind and solar. The costs have come down, too.

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Our Green Power Partnership tracks trends in voluntary green power usage. Not only have we seen steady growth in local government partners (135 and counting!), but more and more often we’re seeing that local governments, businesses, and residents are voluntarily joining together to use green power at levels that earn the distinction of an EPA Green Power Community.

EPA Green Power Communities both large and small are proving they can have a big impact by using green power. For instance in Evanston, Illinois, the residents and businesses and the local government collectively use more than 228 million kilowatt-hours of green power annually, making up more than 30 percent of Evanston’s total electricity usage. The local government runs on 100 percent green power and generates power from the Evanston Water Treatment Facility’s rooftop solar energy system. Washington, D.C., is the largest EPA Green Power Community in terms of total green power usage, with more than one billion kilowatt-hours of green power being used by District residents, businesses, institutions and government entities. Collectively, green power now supplies more than 12 percent of total electricity use in the District.

Green Power Communities are using green power to support their economic and climate goals. Oak Ridge, Tennessee, set an ambitious goal of reducing the community’s greenhouse gas emissions 30 percent by 2030 from 2004 baseline levels. The city launched a community challenge to encourage greater participation in their local renewable energy program, resulting in community-wide green power use of 5.5 percent, and a participation rate nearly three times the rate at the start of the challenge. The City of Beaverton, Oregon, purchases enough wind energy to power all of its facilities and operations and also invests in on-site generation, with a solar array on its main library building. The Beaverton City Council recently approved the construction of a 433 kW solar photovoltaic array, which is expected to provide approximately 55 percent of the facility’s annual power needs.

Our proposed Clean Power Plan seeks to build on this trend. Our proposal identifies tailor-made carbon pollution reduction goals for each state, but it’s up to states to choose their own low-carbon path to get there. One clear choice is to use low or zero emission sources like wind and solar. And thanks to the many cities and towns that have already blazed the trail and are currently building and using more renewable energy, we know this shift can be made.

So when you see that windmill farm or big solar array, you can feel good knowing that some of the energy used in your community is coming from homegrown, clean, sources that help protect our climate for generations to come.

And, I’m happy to report that we run on 100 percent green power!

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations.

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Greening the Game

Millions of Americans across the country tuned into the big game a couple weeks ago, which was played for the first time under energy-efficient LED lighting. Why the switch? These lights use at least 75 percent less power than incandescent, saving the venue money on its energy bill and energy, which helps reduce harmful greenhouse gas emissions.

The NFL isn’t alone in its journey to fight climate change by becoming more sustainable. Last week we highlighted a number of leading sports teams, organizations, and venues across the industry who are taking action, including our work with greening collegiate sports though the Game Day Recycling Challenge and the collegiate sports sustainability summit. Recycling conserves vital resources, saves energy, and, in 2012, reduced greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to taking 33 million cars off the road for a year. Recycling also creates green jobs and provides essential resources. And during her recent visit to the X Games in Colorado, our Administrator Gina McCarthy, heard first-hand from athletes and the businesses that support them how they are working to protect their winters from climate change.

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Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations.

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Do You Know…About Green Power?

By Mollie Lemon

You probably know that carbon pollution is the biggest driver of climate change. But, did you know that one-third of all greenhouse gas emissions come from power plants? Power plants generate electricity for our homes, businesses, and workplaces. Did you know that green power, sourced from renewable resources including the sun and wind, produces electricity with little or no fossil-fuel based greenhouse gas emissions? And, did you know that green power is available to every single business, institution, and residential electricity consumer in the U.S.?

I’ve been working for EPA’s Green Power Partnership program since 2011, and buy green power for my own electricity use at home. I have many reasons for using green power – because I’m concerned about extreme weather events that are exacerbated by climate change, because I want my young cousins to be able to play outside in the summer, and because some of my favorite places I’ve visited in my travels over the years are under serious threat from climate change. Working at the EPA has shown me that changing the source of my electricity is one of the easiest and most impactful things I can do in the face of such threats.

The more than 1,500 organizations that participate in our Green Power Partnership also know about the benefits of using green power. Today, our Green Power Partners are collectively using more than 29 billion kilowatt-hours of green power every year. That’s equal to avoiding the annual carbon pollution from the electricity use of more than three million average American homes.

I continue to be impressed by the commitment of our partners to using green power, which helps keep our air clean and healthy. We recently released the first quarterly update of our Top Partner Rankings for 2014, which highlights the annual green power use of leading partners nationwide. Close to two-thirds of these organizations are using 100 percent green power, and nearly half are small businesses. And, every single one of them is helping to grow the market for clean energy resources in the U.S. and contributing to a healthier environment for all of us – including my cousins.

Check out our partner list to see if your local government, school, or favorite retailer is a Green Power Partner. If not, let them know how to become a partner and join us in taking action on climate change.

About the author:  Mollie Lemon joined EPA’s Office of Air and Radiation in Washington, DC in 2009, and is the communications director for the Green Power Partnership. She enjoys hiking, especially in the cool, clean mountain air of the nearby Shenandoah range.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Partnerships Show Huge Potential to Address Climate Change

Last Friday, EPA’s Office of Atmospheric Programs (OAP) released its annual report on its climate partnership programs. The report is notable not just because some of these voluntary programs started more than 20 years ago, but also because it shows just how much partnerships can accomplish.

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In 2012, more than 21,000 organizations and millions of Americans partnered with EPA through OAP’s climate partnerships and prevented more than 365 million metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions, equal to the annual electricity use of over 50 million homes. That’s one million metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions per day.

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Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations.

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Are Green Business More Likely to Attract Your Green?

By Lina Younes

During the holidays, I was waiting in line at a major retailer. While waiting, I noticed that they had several displays near the cashiers highlighting the retailer’s commitment to protecting the environment. In fact, they prominently displayed their actions in favor of sustainability practices such as recycling/minimizing waste, energy efficiency, emission reduction, and encouraging environmental values. I was so impressed on seeing how committed the company was to reducing its carbon footprint nationwide that I visited its website to learn more about their green practices. I was pleased to see that the retailer had been recognized by EPA for achieving several milestones in the past years such as increasing the number of Energy Star certified stores, LEED-certified locations, using solar energy, increasing their water efficiency, and recycling efforts to name a few. The retailer was an active participant in several of EPA’s partnership programs such as Energy Star, EPA Green Power Partnership, EPA WasteWise, and EPA SmartWay Shipper.  They even noted how they encouraged their employees to volunteer in numerous environmental protection activities throughout the year. All this information made me look at the retailer with a new light. It was evident that the company was trying to do its best to be a good green corporate citizen. Have you encountered similar situations with companies you buy from or do business with? Do their green practices influence you in any way? We would love to know.

And on a similar note, while we’re discussing green business practices, there are many green activities we can engage in at a personal level. At the beginning of 2012, it’s not too late to make a new year resolution. So if you are interested in pledging to do something good for the environment, just visit our Pick5 website.  Join others in going green.

About the author: Lina Younes has been working for EPA since 2002 and currently serves as acting associate director for environmental education. Prior to joining EPA, she was the Washington bureau chief for two Puerto Rican newspapers and she has worked for several government agencies.

Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in Greenversations are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Winning the College and University Green Power Challenge

About the Author: Dan Garofalo is the Environmental Sustainability Coordinator and a Senior Facilities Planner at the University of Pennsylvania. He is a founding member of the Delaware Valley Green Building Council and has served as the Chairman of the organization’s Board of Directors since 2008.The University of Pennsylvania led the Ivy League’s victory in this year’s Green Power Partnership College and University Green Power Challenge.

The University of Pennsylvania finds itself in an interesting position when it comes to energy consumption and management. Since Penn is currently unable to produce its own electricity, like the many colleges and universities that own steam and co-generation plants, purchasing Renewable Energy Credits (RECs) is one way for Penn to directly contribute to the development of clean energy sources while reducing its own carbon footprint.

Penn’s commitment to purchasing wind power RECs represents an investment in the future of renewable energy in America. More specifically, Penn’s initial commitment to purchase ten years of 40,000 megawatt hours of wind RECs from the Bear Creek Wind Farm near Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, allowed the renewable energy developer, Community Energy (community Energy has since been purchased by Iberdrola), to finance the entire wind farm operation and expansion. We’re proud to be recognized by EPA’s Green Power Partnership as a role model in alternative energy consumption and hope other institutions will follow our lead.

Earlier last year, I had a chance to visit a nearby wind farm, and I was able to examine first hand the type of operation that Penn was helping to fund. Staring up at the graceful swinging blades above me, it was immediately apparent that the money invested by the University was going towards an important component of our country’s renewable energy strategy. Clean power is a very real and pressing need in our environment.
The University is currently focused on connecting its external sustainability efforts, such as support of wind power, to the implementation of several campus-wide conservation and education initiatives. Penn’s Green Campus Partnership serves as the umbrella organization for Penn’s environmental efforts and includes the University’s Environmental Sustainability Advisory Committee , which will produce Penn’s Climate Action Plan in September 2009.

The Climate Action Plan will include many recommendations from student, staff, and faculty committees on sustainable academics, energy, recycling, waste reduction, and our campus buildings and landscape. As these recommendations are implemented over the next several years, Penn will be making a bigger and better impact on our environment, and on our future. Check out our website (www.upenn.edu/sustainability) for more information about Penn’s current sustainability initiatives, and stay tuned for the release of our Climate Action Plan in September!

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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