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Walmart units jump to top of green power users list

In October, Walmart was ranked 15th by the Environmental Protection Agency for the amount of clean energy it uses. Now it is number three, thanks to a big going-green initiative.

CORRECTION: The original version of this story incompletely described Walmart's ranking as a user of renewable energy. Walmart's Texas and California facilities had been ranked 15th in using renewable energy, and in the latest EPA survey they ranked third. The headline and text have been corrected.

Tess Vigeland: The Environmental Protection Agency puts out a green power list every few months. It ranks companies by how much clean energy they use: Wind, solar, biofuel, what-have-you. And in the latest list, a new name broke into the top three: Walmart. It was way down in 15th place just a few months ago. From the Marketplace Sustainability Desk, Eve Troeh reports.


Eve Troeh: The EPA lists of top renewable energy users as part of its Green Power Partnership. Blain Collison directs the project. He says it's exciting to see who lands on top. But no internal bets.

 

Blain Collison: There would certainly be no betting in a federal workplace. But I really enjoy watching the lists move.

They don't move all that much. Intel has been number one for green energy the past few years. But a unit of Walmart did just knock Whole Foods down a notch. Last quarter, only 8 percent of Walmart's electricity at its Texas and California facilities came from renewable sources. Three months later, it's up to 28 percent. That's because Walmart flipped the switch on several energy projects at once, says energy director, David Ozment. Walmart wants to run the whole company on renewable power. Ozment says they're tackling it bit by bit.

David Ozment: Renewable energy is a lot of fun, and very rewarding, but we also gotta do it in a cost-effective way.

That means using more wind and solar in states that have incentives, like California and Texas. But renewables can also reduce costs in places where Walmart's electric bills are rising.

Ozment: A 1 percent change in energy price to us means a lot of dollars.

Millions of dollars that could be saved if Walmart locks in a price with a solar company instead of staying with the local utility. Eric Olson at Business for Social Responsibility says that goes for any business that uses lots of power.

Eric Olson: It's not an industry specific phenomenon. These are moves that can work for any company.

Moves we'll see a lot more of, he says, as the price of solar panels and other technology continues to fall. I'm Eve Troeh for Marketplace.

About the author

Eve Troeh is News Director at WWNO-FM in New Orleans, La., helping build the first public radio news department in the station’s 40-year history. She reported for the Marketplace Sustainability Desk from 2010 to 2013.
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This article doesn’t distinguish the difference between renewable energy and Renewable Energy Certificates (RECs). From the EPA’s Green Power Partners website:

These green power purchases help reduce the environmental impacts of electricity use and support the development of new renewable generation capacity nationwide. Purchase amounts reflect U.S. operations only and are sourced from U.S.-based green power resources. Organizations can meet EPA purchase requirements using any combination of three different product options (1) Renewable Energy Certificates, (2) On-site generation, and (3) Utility green power products.

In qualifying for Green Power Partners the EPA doesn’t make a distinction either. A good follow-up piece would explain the difference and investigate the percentage of money spent on RECs that not only reaches the renewable energy generators, but also is used for developing new renewable sources.

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