Western Washington University is teaming up with Puget Sound Energy (PSE) on its Green Direct Renewable Energy Program, a ground-breaking program where customers, in an effort to use energy that meets their financial and carbon reduction goals, have agreed to a long-term service agreement in order to make this project viable.
This innovative program recently was approved by the Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission (UTC). Once complete, the project would produce enough renewable energy to power nearly 30,000 Washington homes.
The largest off-taker of the energy will be King County, with government entities like Western Washington University and Sound Transit also committing to the project.
“Western has long been recognized for leadership and innovation in environmental education, but we’re equally committed to ‘walking our talk’ outside of the classroom as well, in terms of how our operations and energy usage impact the environment. We’re proud to support the Green Direct program and deepen our commitment to sustainable operations in a really meaningful, concrete way,” said Western President Sabah Randhawa.
For the past decade, Western has annually offset 100 percent of its electrical consumption from green sources via purchases of renewable energy credits (RECs). The purchase of RECs make wind power production more lucrative and act as a potential incentive for further investment in wind farms. However, the direct connection between REC purchases and creation of new wind resources has been criticized.
“Our agreement with PSE will ensure that Western’s investments contribute directly to new renewables coming online,” said Seth Vidana, sustainability manager with Western’s Office of Sustainability. “I can’t want to see the Western logo on a wind turbine; there’s no doubt that our dollars will have made it possible.”
Green Direct will make a difference by constructing a new renewable generating facility while PSE partners 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, PSE manager for customer renewable energy development.
“King County is significantly reducing the greenhouse gas impacts of our operations while using our purchasing power to spark even further development of clean, renewable energy in Washington state,” said King County Executive Dow Constantine. “PSE’s Green Direct project is entirely consistent with our climate goals to take bold steps that will cut our climate footprint and benefit generations to come.”
Many cities have also signed up to cover all or part of their operations, including Anacortes, Bellevue, Snoqualmie and Mercer Island.
Commercial customers include some of the most well-known brands in America, including Target, Starbucks and REI.
“By partnering with Puget Sound Energy on their innovative Green Direct program, we’re able to power seven of our local Target stores with 100 percent clean energy,” said John Leisen, vice president of property management at Target. “This initiative is just one example of Target’s ongoing commitment to sustainability and promoting renewable energy solutions in the community we serve.”
Starbucks plans to have approximately 116 of its Washington state stores powered with green energy from PSE.
Outdoor co-op REI will 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.
“The Fortune 100 and local governments have set ambitious renewable energy goals, and utilities that help meet those goals in an affordable way make their region more attractive to those growing businesses,” said Letha Tawney, director of Utility Innovation at World Resources Institute. “Puget Sound Energy has shown national leadership in this green tariff – the scale of the program and the breadth of the customers served are both groundbreaking.”
Residential customers can also support renewable energy production by participating in PSE’s long-running Green Power Program.