Lots of people and small businesses would like to participate in the clean energy revolution but can’t because they don’t have a roof to put solar panels on or a yard large enough for a wind powered generator. Community solar programs may not offer customers portability if they move and often require a long term commitment.
Renewable Power Direct is a Texas startup that has taken the idea of community solar and wind farms to the next level. It leverages the needs and desires of large corporations and electricity providers to carve out a space for residential customers and small business owners. Its program is called Purely Green and it involves several large companies working together to make it happen.
Intuit, maker of TurboTax, QuickBooks, ProConnect, and Mint, has a strong corporate interest in sustainability. Sean Kinghorn, who is in charge of the company’s sustainability program, tells Forbes, “At Intuit, we believe in continuously finding new and creative ways to be good stewards of our environment. The Purely Green program — which we believe is the first of its kind in a retail choice state — allows Intuit employees, consumers, and small businesses to benefit from the same local, physical green energy that will be delivered to Intuit’s Plano Texas Campus, which greatly amplifies our ability to make an impact.”
The electricity in this case comes from the Lone Star II wind farm located near Abilene, TX, which is operated by EDP Renewables. The key to the program is that EDP is willing to sell relatively small blocks of power — from 1 to 5 MW — to individual customers. Just Energy, a retail energy supplier, acts as the middleman in the transaction. It leverage its ability to purchase significant blocks of electricity to buy power at prices below normal retail rates. RPD is the intermediary that brings all the necessary parties together.
By leveraging Intuit’s larger, corporate wind power procurement, the Purely Green program will allow tens of thousands of residential and small business customers to purchase power from a specific wind farm — Lone Star II — at prices that are generally below prevailing market rates.
To make its business profitable, Just Energy needs customers for that electricity and customer acquisition can cost a lot of money. Intuit, with its access to a large number of potential program participants through its extensive network of employees, customers, and suppliers, lets Just Energy find the customers it needs at greatly reduced cost.
“Our Purely Green affinity program addresses two issues that are deeply important to us — our mission for powering prosperity for customers and being good stewards of the environment. We want the community where we live and work to have the same opportunity we do, says CeCe Morken, vice president for strategic partnerships at Intuit. Morgan Smith, head of sales for Just Energy, adds “We are excited to team up with RPD Energy and Intuit to be able to provide innovative, environmentally responsible product options for our customers.”
The Purely Green program could be a harbinger of things to come in the renewable energy business. The partners in the program, which only started operating a few months ago, could expand the idea to include other forms of renewable energy like solar and hydro. That, in turn, would allow more individuals and small business owners to obtain renewable energy at below normal retail rates.
As Forbes says, “Industry players in other markets could also pick up the idea and fundamentally change the way many Americans purchase renewable energy in the future.” No need to put the cart before the horse yet. Purely Green is very much an experiment at this point. But it clearly represents a powerful alternative to conventional thinking in the utility industry, which is good news for us all and even better news for the Earth.
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