Washington utility offers new green tariff program - Smart Energy Decisions

Commercial, Utilities, Commercial, Sourcing Renewables  -  April 18, 2017

REI, Starbucks, Target opt in for PSE green tariff

A number of large corporate and municipal energy consumers, including REI, Starbucks and Target, have signed up for a newly approved green tariff offering from Puget Sound Energy. 

The Bellevue, Wash.-based utility said in an April 18 announcement about the product option that customers including cities, government institutions and major commercial customers have agreed to a long-term service agreement in order to make the green tariff program viable. The program, called "Green Direct," was recently approved by the Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission.

It is separate from, and will not change, an agreement PSE recently reached with Microsoft to allow the technology company to purchase clean energy on the wholesale market, according to a utility spokeswoman, though both developments reflect an increased level of attention for the changing needs of its C&I energy customers.

Target says partnering with the utility on the program is enabling it to power seven of its local stores with 100% clean energy. Toward its broader clean energy goals, Target has also been rapidly increasing its use of rooftop solar; the company in 2016 installed more megawatts of rooftop solar than any other U.S. company. 

Starbucks plans to have approximately 116 of its stores in the state powered with green energy from PSE.

"As part of Starbucks ongoing Global Responsibility efforts, we're proud to support the advancement of renewable energy sources in regionally relevant ways," Rebecca Zimmer, Starbucks director of environmental impact said in a statement. "We're proud of our commitment to bring greener power to our stores, and now through our relationship with Puget Sound Energy, our partners (employees) in the Puget Sound can see this come to life, right in their community."

Outdoor co-op REI plans to power its headquarters and five local stores through the project. The co-op is involved in green energy efforts throughout the country and has kept its energy use nearly flat while doubling sales since 2008. REI has been an important partner in the development of the Green Direct program over the past decade.

"We are constantly looking for innovative ways to increase renewable energy development," Vik Sahney, REI's divisional vice president of sustainability said, calling the program a pioneering model for U.S. utilities. 

The largest offtaker of the green tariff program will be King County, with government entities like Western Washington University and Sound Transit also committing to the project.  Cities have also signed up to cover all or part of their operations including Anacortes, Bellevue, Snoqualmie and Mercer Island.

The utility said the Green Direct program will allow for the construction of a new renewable generating facility while its customers benefit from cost competitive prices and continued access to energy efficiency programs.

"A key aspect of a voluntary green energy program is that all of the costs and benefits must accrue to those customers who select the program, and are not shifted to those customers who are not involved," said Tom MacLean, manager for customer renewable energy development.

According to the World Resources Institute, Puget Sound Energy is one of eight utilities identified in the country as offering such a program. Letha Tawney, director of utility innovation at WRI characterized the scale of the utility's program and the amount of customers being served by it as "groundbreaking." 

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