Monday, 10 December 2007

Walmart turns to competitive generation to purchase green energy

I caught up briefly with Angela Beehler, senior director of energy regulation at Walmart, at a UNFCCC side event to find out more about the company’s commitments on green energy.

US superstore Walmart has, like UK’s Tesco, committed to reduce its carbon footprint. Unlike Tesco which has pledged reductions relative to its growth, Walmart has committed to reduce its overall greenhouse gas emissions by 20 percent over the next eight years.

The store has started to make efforts to green customer behaviour by selling low cost energy efficient light bulbs. Walmart claims to have sold 100 million so far.

On green energy, Walmart has been moving slower. The company faced criticism at the conference for only installing solar panels on 22 of its 'super centres', representing only 1% of the total number of super centres statewide.

Walmart has resisted buying green energy from the grid, unwilling to pay the added costs. “Walmart is a very frugal company” says Beehler, “and buying renewable energy from the grid is significantly more expensive”.

Beehler says Walmart is hoping to get around the problem via the US’s competitive generation system, whereby companies can arrange to buy energy directly from a power generation plant and rent the grid to transport the electricity.

The US Energy Policy Act of 1992 permits all electricity consumers, regardless of size, to purchase electricity from any utility or independent generator on the grid.

There are a total of three energy grids in the US, an East, West and a Texas grid, each with its own rules for competitive generation.

According to Beehler, Walmart is looking into investing in power plants, such as biomass plants, and buying the energy direct.

“If we can participate in renewable energy provision we stand to get the energy at a more competitive price” Beehler says.

see the US Electric Power Supply Association paper explaining competitive generation

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