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Rocky Mountain Power's Blue Sky program among best in U.S.

Published June 11, 2013 12:47 pm

Green power • Effort cited for number of customers, growth of renewable-energy market.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Although it has its critics, Rocky Mountain Power once again is getting national recognition for its Blue Sky renewable-energy program.

The U.S. Department of Energy recently released its ranking of the leading utility green power initiatives, and for the 10th year PacifiCorp — the parent company of Rocky Mountain Power and the Oregon-based Pacific Power— was named among the top five programs nationally.

For 2012, the Blue Sky Program ranked second for the total number of participating customers — nearly 88,000 customers in six states served by PacifiCorp and its subsidiaries — and third for the amount of renewable energy being supported through the voluntary green power purchase program.

In Utah, Idaho and Wyoming more than 42,000 Rocky Mountain Power customers were participating in Blue Sky at the end of last year, a 10 percent increase over 2011.

"A growing number of Rocky Mountain Power customers are helping to build a stronger market for renewable energy through their voluntary participation in Blue Sky," Richard Walje, the Utah utility's president and CEO, said in a statement.

Under the Blue Sky program, consumers pay a premium on their monthly electricity bills — $1.95 for each 100 kilowatt-hour block of Blue Sky energy they buy — so they can be assured they are supporting the production of electricity from renewable resources.

Once a customer signs up, Rocky Mountain Power purchases "renewable energy certificates" from wind farms and other green power production facilities on their behalf. That guarantees electricity from those renewable resources is put on the regional power grid, reducing the need for non-renewable energy and benefiting the environment.

The federal agency's National Renewable Energy Laboratory noted that green power sales from the Top 10 utility programs exceeded 4.2 million megawatt-hours in 2012, up from 3.9 million in 2010. Wind energy represented approximately 85 percent of electricity generated from green energy programs nationwide.

A megawatt is enough energy to run the major appliances in 750 homes.

Despite the federal government's ranking, the Blue Sky program has its critics.

HEAL Utah, one of the state's leading environmental groups, believes PacifiCorp and Rocky Mountain Power should do more to expand the program.

"When we look around the country there are other programs that we like more," said Christopher Thomas, executive director of HEAL Utah.

Thomas said he would like Rocky Mountain Power to increase the amount of renewable energy it produces in Utah so it won't have to buy as many renewable-energy credits from out of state. He emphasized, though, that HEAL doesn't think Utahns should stop buying Blue Sky energy.

"The fact that we rank so high is really a reflection of the fact that so many Rocky Mountain Power customers like and want renewable energy," Thomas said. "But we get so little from that investment."

steve@sltrib.com

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For Blue Sky information

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