Jul 292008
Authors: Aaron Hedge

CSU and Fort Collins officials received a press release from a self-described concerned citizen late last week letting them know of an initiative to get customers of the community’s touted renewable energy credit market to rescind their patronage.

Eric Sutherland, a community critic of the REC market — which he says is rife with opacity and confusing policy — went to a Fort Collins Electric Board meeting Wednesday to announce his initiative to board members.

The effort, which Sutherland admitted probably won’t work, will operate by distribution of a just-sign-here form addressed to Fort Collins Utilities that requests that the signer be released from the program.

But a CSU official said Monday that the effort is useless and unnecessary, citing the fact that students, who are offered the program through the Housing and Dining department, have full freedom and a wide variety of choices to be environmentally conscious.

“We’ve updated our market” and tailored advertising “to reflect that the green power program is more broad,” said Tonie Miyamoto, the director of CSU’s renewable energy programs.

Since students were first offered the program in 2004, 764 have signed up for it. Miyamoto said their patronage has made significant strides toward reducing CSU’s carbon footprint.

“The 764 CSU students who have participated in the Green Power Program have offset 1,073 tons of CO2,” she said in an e-mail message to the Collegian.

“That is equivalent to 197 cars not driving for one year, 121,793 gallons of gasoline saved, 27,513 tree seedlings grown for 10 years, or 370 tons of waste being recycled instead of going to the landfill. I think this demonstrates a very positive impact on our environment.”

About 1.38 million kilowatt hours have been purchased by students so far through the program.

But Sutherland said the REC industry is not transparent enough to ensure that the numbers cited by the university are accurate. He said the nature of the market makes it unclear whether the energy received from the student transactions actually came from green energy production.

The average student uses about 1,600 kilowatt hours for the entire year and will pay $17 for the amount of energy to be offset by wind or solar power.

Sutherland said it should cost much more than that because, to expand the program, more green power facilities must be built, and the $17 is only enough to maintain the current resources.

He is skeptical that the money is sustaining the market sufficiently, saying that to actually pay for the amount of energy claimed to be produced by clean methods, students would have to pay 10-fold what they do currently.

“It’s the law of diminishing returns,” Sutherland said. “A fair price to tell [students] is $170.”

Sutherland plans to distribute his message to stop consumers from using the green power program through grass roots efforts, using word of mouth and a Web site that he said will be running soon.

News Managing Editor Aaron Hedge can be reached at news@collegian.com.

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