Green Mountain Energy was more than ahead of the curve-it was almost ahead of its time. Founded over a decade ago, when eco-friendliness was still widely associated with tree-hugging, the Vermont-based company had a tough slog initially convincing retail customers to purchase renewable electricity. But the fast-growing green economy has been catching up with
In addition to having a decade’s worth of experience behind it,
What they do is aggregate demand for clean power on the consumer and business sides and then sign long-term contracts with developers on the other end to purchase all their output. “The developer will take our commitment to a bank, go get financing and get a facility built,” Thomas says, noting that this model has spurred 35 renewable energy projects around the country to date.
Because regulatory environments around the country vary so widely,
Whichever way it sells clean power,
Should the green movement prove to be more fad than sustainable trend, the popularity of such offerings as carbon offsets, and even renewable energy, could wane with the public’s interest in sustainability. But Thomas believes a trifecta of policy drivers will keep demand for its products high.
Concern over global warming and the environmental dangers of coal-based energy and fossil fuels is spurring legislation to move the country over to clean energy, which will work in
“To have home-grown, non-diminishing sources of energy is very important,” he notes. “Despite the ups and downs in popularity and national fads, the combination of those three really strong policy drivers will ensure that renewables are here to stay.”
Thomas’s big challenge today, he says, aside from getting better access to heavily regulated markets such as California, is getting his message out to customers and changing perceptions that alternative forms of energy are either less reliable than traditional utility offerings or more expensive. “We’re in a category that traditionally hasn’t gotten a big share of people’s mind. People don’t talk a lot about their electricity. They don’t go home at night and say, €˜How was the electricity today?'” Thomas points out. “So we need to draw folks’ attention to it, and tell them how we can make a real difference for them.” _