June 2008 - Over the past two years, utilities and their marketing partners have increased the use of "green power challenges" to increase participation and awareness for their green pricing programs. The utility typically develops the challenge in partnership with local governments, who make their own purchase in conjunction with the challenge, and environmental nonprofit organizations, who can help communicate the challenge. Utility and local government decision-makers typically agree on a goal for a fixed number of sign-ups within a specified time, usually about six months.
In 2007, at least fourteen utilities offered challenges, mostly in small- to mid-sized communities, and several more have done so in 2008. Many of these utilities have done challenges in more than one of the communities within their service territories. For example, Pacific Power and its sister company, Rocky Mountain Power, have launched 11 challenges in their combined Washington, Oregon, and Utah communities. Some programs, like Xcel Energy's Windsource, have conducted a second challenge in a subsequent year in the same community, as a result of their success with the first.
Several green power challenges have exceeded their stated goals. For example, in 2007, Puget Sound Energy launched a Bellingham, Washington challenge that produced 2,000 new customers, pushing the community's participation rate to 11%. In Beaverton, Oregon, Portland General Electric's 2007 challenge set a goal of 250 enrollments and reached twice that number. Generally, challenges have been particularly successful in small towns because of the greater ease in communicating the challenge to utility customers, the greater likelihood that the mayor will prioritize the challenge, and the sense of sense of community pride the challenge can engender.
The U.S. EPA's Green Power Partnership recognizes Green Power Communities that achieve collective green power purchases of 2%, 3%, or 6% of the community's purchased electricity needs, depending on the size of the community. Recently, the agency recognized 16 communities, including those of Bellingham and Beaverton, as well as Santa Clara (CA), Bend (OR), and Palo Alto (CA).