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Whole Foods switching to all wind power in U.S.

by: Renuka Rayasam    10 January 2006

Deal for wind power credits makes Whole Foods the biggest corporate user of wind power in the country. Whole Foods Market Inc. is going all green on electricity.

The company is buying enough wind power credits to cover energy use at all of its U.S. stores, bakeries, distribution centers, regional offices and its Austin headquarters.


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The deal makes Whole Foods the biggest corporate user of wind power in the country.

Whole Foods will buy 458,000 megawatt-hours of the wind energy credits from Boulder, Colo.-based Renewable Choice Energy Inc. Neither company revealed the dollar value of the two-year contract.

"Right now, the main benefit is public relations," said Andrew Aulisi, senior associate at the nonprofit World Resources Institute. "For a company like Whole Foods, which has a particular kind of clientele, I can imagine this is an important way they relate to their customers."

Unlike slapping solar panels on a roof, buying green power credits does not mean that wind-generated electricity will power all Whole Foods' stores.
Rather, the amount spent on the credits will pump more wind energy into the electric grid overall, reducing the amount of coal and natural gas used

"It's as if a city has been rendered green powered because of this (purchase) by Whole Foods," said Kurt Johnson,Green Power Partnershipdirector at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Whole Foods had been using green power to support about 20 percent of its operations before the purchase.

To Whole Foods, the benefits are largely intangible, said regional president Michael Bescanson. "Our customers expect this of us."

Buying the credits simplifies green power purchases for large companies with scattered locations. Since the credits became available in 2001, companies have been quick to buy them.

Purchases of renewable energy are up 1,000 percent since 2001 in the Green Power Partnership. The partnership includes about 85 percent to 90 percent of corporate purchases, Johnson said.

For most companies, the extra costs show customers they are environmentally responsible. But in Austin, green power actually has become less expensive than alternatives because of the structure of Austin Energy's Green Choice
program. The program fixes the cost for 10 years.

When the program started in 2000, Green Choice customers paid 1.7 cents per kilowatt hour, compared with 1.64 cents for regular fuel charges, said Ed Clark of Austin Energy. Even though it was more expensive at the time, buying a green power 10-year contract ends up being more cost-effective for companies. With the latest round of pricing Green Choice customers pay 3.5 cents per kilowatt hour compared with 3.63 for normal fuel charges.

About 400 Austin companies buy green power, with 344 using it for all of their energy, Clark said.

rrayasam@statesman.com; 912-2942

Top green power companies

Whole Foods Market Inc. 458,000 megawatts a year
Johnson & Johnson 295,000 MW
DuPont & Co. 170,000 MW
Starbucks Corp. 150,000 MW
IBM Corp. 110,000 MW
Safeway Inc. 78,000 MW
HSBC 66,000 MW
NatureWorks LLC 59,000 MW
Advanced Micro Devices Inc. 52,500 MW
WhiteWave Foods 49,500 MW

Sources: World Resources Institute, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency