DOE’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) yesterday released its annual ranking of leading utility green power programs:

Customer choice programs are proving to be a powerful stimulus for growth in renewable energy supply. In 2006, total utility green power sales exceeded 3.5 billion kilowatt-hours (kWh), about a 30% increase over 2005. More than 500,000 customers are participating in utility programs nationwide, up more than 10% from 2005

Some highlights follow.

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  • Ranked by renewable energy sales, the green power program of Austin (Texas) Energy is first in the nation (580,580,401 kWh/year), followed by Portland General Electric, Florida Power & Light, PacifiCorp and Xcel Energy.
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  • Ranked by customer participation rates, the top utilities are City of Palo Alto (Calif.)(16.9%) Utilities, Lenox (Iowa) Municipal Utilities, Montezuma (Iowa) Municipal Light & Power, Portland General Electric, and Sacramento Municipal Utility District.

And the one that really caught my eye:

  • Ranked by Price Premium Charged for New, Customer-Driven Renewable Power, the top utilities are Austin Energy (-0.13 cents/kWH), OG&E Electric Services, Edmond Electricb, Avista Utilities

That’s right. Austin power has a negative surcharge. A note states: “Premium is variable; customers in these programs are exempt or otherwise protected from changes in utility fuel charges.” I’m not clear on how the variable rate contributes to the negative surcharge, but this report (and NREL is pretty reliable) is showing a renewable power option cheaper than conventional! For the curious, Austin is listed as using a mix of wind and landfill gas. Overall the rate surcharges for the top 10 providers ranged from -0.13 – 1.0 cents/kWh.