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Wind credit vendor helps cut Alberta carbon emissions.

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EDMONTON – Car dealer Jeff Hodgson has been a snowmobiler for 20 years, but glaciers he once rode across have shrunk so much they can no longer be reached, and the warm-weather-loving pine beetle is destroying forests.

“Things are changing in the environment. Last summer, when gas prices were ridiculous and truck sales were slow, I thought we must sell more fuel- efficient vehicles, and then wondered if there was something we could do at the dealership level.”

So he called in an energy audit firm to evaluate his St. Albert GM store, and began changing lights, installing motion detectors in bathrooms and adding stickers to switches to make staff aware of the energy they were using.

Then he made the jump and decided to pay a surcharge of two cents per kilowatt hour in addition to their current power charges to join the Bullfrog Power network, which sells only wind-generated electricity.

“Our power use has gone down, and that almost compensates for the additional dollars we spend on Bullfrog,” Hodgson said.

“This isn’t about money, but to do our part to help the environment, and get on the train to make a difference.”

It’s great for his store’s image, he adds.

“People have sought us out because we are green. They shop around and when they come here they feel comfortable, and can see that this is what they are supporting.”

Based in Ontario, Bullfrog Power came to Alberta two years ago, making investments in several wind-generating operations in the Pincher Creek area in the southern part of the province.

This week, they announced that their 1,400 residential and commercial customers – including 200 companies ranging from major banks and retailers to local shops – had reduced the province’s carbon dioxide emissions by 50,000 tonnes since June, 2007.

“This is a significant environmental achievement of which our Alberta customers can be proud,” said Theresa Howland, Calgary-based vice-president for Bullfrog’s western region.

“These Albertans have voluntarily chosen to reduce their electricity-related footprints, whether for their homes or businesses. It’s a proud milestone for Bullfrog Power and its customers.”

Unlike larger power firms offering a green option, Bullfrog offers one product – wind-powered electricity – and charges users a two cent per kilowatt hour surcharge, based on their monthly power use.

Bullfrog does not offer contracts or supply power directly. It purchases green credits from the wind-power producers, who pump their output into the provincial electrical grid.

The credits are audited and verified by a third party, and are matched to the actual use by Bullfrog customers, who are billed an average of $12 per month.

“It’s really simple. Customers don’t change their suppliers, and they aren’t required to buy a block of power,” said Howland.

Large producers Epcor/Capital Power and TransAlta offer green energy to commercial users who need to offset their carbon emissions. Enmax and Canadian Hydro Developers sell power from non-fossil fuel sources.

A big part of Bullfrog’s appeal is the public education and sense of community that the firm promotes.

“People are making a stand with their dollars; every single person in the province can choose. The people and companies with our Bullfrog sticker on their doors show that they are starting down the path” to a greener world, she said.

But it won’t happen too quickly.

“If everybody in Edmonton wanted to switch to Bullfrog tomorrow we’d say, ‘Wait a moment, we have to build more.’ But certainly customer demand for wind power is stimulating more construction.”

Alberta is a fossil-fuel-burning province, with 90 per cent of its electricity coming from coal-and natural gas-fired turbines.

Alberta Wind Energy Corp. has a small 3.6-megawatt operation near Pincher Creek, which supplies some eco-credits to Bullfrog. It hopes to soon begin construction on a large 46MW wind farm in co-operation with its new majority partner, Ireland’s Mainstream Renewable Power.

“We have been waiting for AltaLink to get the transmission reinforced from Lethbridge to Pincher Creek, and they now have started construction with a target date of the end of second quarter 2010,” said Stewart Duncan, the firm’s CEO.

Alberta total electricity-generating capacity is over 9,000MW, and to date 550MW is wind-powered.

According to the Alberta Electric System Operator, there are 12,900MW of proposed wind projects “in the queue.”

Edmonton Journal

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