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Starbucks perks up green power purchases

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Municipal and state governments also demonstrate strong leadership, according to latest EPA Green Power Top 50 ranking.

Giant coffee company Starbucks rose to the Top 5 of the latest U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Green Power Top 50 list, more than doubling its green power purchases to approximately 573 million kilowatt-hours of green power annually.

On July's list, Starbucks sourced approximately 25 percent of its energy from green power sources, which the EPA defines as energy derived from solar, wind, biogas, geothermal, and low-impact hydropower sources. According to the latest list, Starbucks is now sourcing approximately 55 percent of its total energy needs from green power sources, specifically from wind energy generators.

That percentage is right in line with the goals that Starbucks set in 2008, when it pledged to purchase renewable energy equivalent to 50 percent of its electricity use by the end of this year. Mind you, a significant portion of that, at least 25 percent, comes from renewable energy certificates from 3Degress and NextEra Energy. Starbucks also believes it can substantially cut its energy consumption outright by replacing existing equipment as needed. This year, the company is completing a major LED lighting conversion in partnership with General Electric.

Starbucks was actually No. 4 on the list. It was bested by No. 2 Intel (which purchases 1.4 billion kilowatt-hours of green power annually); No. 2 Kohl's Department Stores (1.36 billion kilowatt-hours annually); and No. 3 Whole Foods Market (817.6 million kilowatt-hours annually). Another biggie in the corporate sustainability movement, Wal-Mart Stores, was No. 13 with 263.5 million kilowatt-hours (or 8 percent of its annual electricity consumption).

What really struck me, actually, was the number of municipalities and state governments that garnered recognition on this list. Two cities from Texas were in the Top 10; three made the Top 50! Here's who made it:

  • No. 5 = Commonwealth of Pennsylvania (500 million kilowatt-hours annually)
  • No. 6 = City of Houston (438 million kilowatt-hours annually)
  • No. 10 = City of Dallas (333.6 million kilowatt-hours annually)
  • No. 15 = District of Columbia (244.2 million kilowatt-hours annually)
  • No. 18 = City of Chicago (215 million kilowatt-hours annually)
  • No. 23 = State of Illinois (176 million kilowatt-hours annually)
  • No. 30 = Montgomery County Clean Energy Buyers Group (134.6 million kilowatt-hours annually)
  • No. 35 = Chicago Public Schools (107.7 million kilowatt-hours annually)
  • No. 36 = State of Connecticut (107.2 million kilowatt-hours annually)
  • No. 41 = State of Wisconsin (92.4 million kilowatt-hours annually)
  • No. 48 = Port of Portland (75 million kilowatt-hours annually)
  • No. 49 = City of Austin, Texas (74 million kilowatt-hours annually)

Keep in mind that green power purchases could come in the form of outright sourcing choices or in the form of renewable energy certificates and the EPA list doesn't really distinguish. I'm still conflicted about whether it really matters, since the latter are (in theory) stimulating renewable energy development. But with little in the way of government leadership expected now on energy matters, it should be interesting to see what happens in 2011.

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Heather Clancy

Section Editor

Heather Clancy has written for United Press International, ZDNet, Entrepreneur, Fortune Small Business, the International Herald Tribune and the New York Times. She holds a degree from McGill University. She is based in New Jersey. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure