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PGE beats rest of utilities for green power sales

Portland-based utilities — and their customers — continue to lead the pack in choosing renewable energy options for their electricity.

For the first time ever, Portland General Electric registered the nation’s highest sales of renewable energy in 2012 as well as the highest number of customers choosing a green power option, according to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory.

PGE had been second to Austin Energy of Austin, Texas in total sales of renewable energy in the prior period, but surpassed it in 2012, the federal laboratory reported.

PacifiCorp, also based in Portland, wasn’t far behind PGE. PacifiCorp, which operates under the Pacific Power name here, ranked third nationally in total sales of renewable energy, and second after PGE in total number of customers choosing a green power option.

PGE has 87,987 customers choosing to pay premium prices to get green power for their electricity, and they bought 834,125 megawatt-hours of power last year. PacifiCorp was close behind with 87,919 customers, and they purchased 604,007 megawatt-hours. Pacific Power tends to operate more in rural parts of the state, while PGE is dominant in the Portland area.

Customers who buy green power options don’t necessarily get electricity generated by solar, wind, geothermal or hydro via the wires serving their homes. But by buying that amount of green power, it commits the utilities to provide that amount through their own production or via purchases on the open market.

The more solar and wind power customers agree to buy, the more PGE and PacifiCorp know they have a market to provide, with a higher price to make it pencil out.

The city of Palo Alto had the highest customer participation rate in green power options, with 18.2 percent of its customers signing up in 2012. PGE ranked second in that category, with 12.4 percent, and Pacific Power ranked sixth, with 7.6 percent of its customers.

The Northwest Renewable Energy Laboratory, part of the U.S. Department of Energy, is based in and around Golden, Colo.

For more information:

• PGE customers: http://www.greenpoweroregon.com/home.aspx

• Pacific Power customers: http://www.pacificpower.net/bluesky