A small dirt road winds its way through open grasses punctuated by low-lying mesquite brush in a Texas field. But you’re not here for the scenery. You’ve come to see the soaring, stark-white windmills that scrape at the clouds rolling over a wind farm in Abilene. This is where your energy comes from, and it’s a sight to behold.
Today, REI is sourcing energy from this wind farm to power six of its own Texas retail locations. Though the co-op has used renewable electricity since 2013, the Texas program is one of the first times REI is purchasing wind energy directly from a local renewable source. And the co-op is making customers in Texas aware of the option they now have to purchase energy from this wind farm at prices similar to those of nonrenewable sources.
The road to local and renewable
Across the United States, buying energy from renewable sources—like wind, water and sunlight—is part of a growing trend to cut down on greenhouse gas emissions. Between 2008 and 2018, the U.S. doubled its renewable energy production, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. A 2018 report by the International Renewable Energy Agency suggests that unsubsidized renewable energy is increasingly becoming more affordable than the fossil fuel options on the market today. And while renewables made up only 15 percent of electricity in 2016, that number is expected to rise to 25 percent by 2030, according to the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions.
Buying renewable energy directly from the source was previously too expensive for most individuals and companies, as renewables could only be purchased in large amounts that required long-term contracts and a significant investment. Those who wanted to use clean energy sometimes resorted to installing solar panels or buying renewable energy certificates (RECs), which represent a given amount of electricity that’s been generated from a renewable source, like a wind farm or a solar plant.
But a partnership established between RPD Energy and financial tools company Intuit is helping to make renewable energy more accessible in Texas. In 2018, the companies launched a program, Purely Green, with the intention of connecting green energy plants with consumers. By purchasing large blocks of wind power from the Lone Star II farm through RPD, Intuit is making it possible for smaller buyers to source electricity from that same local energy generator.
Sean Kinghorn is the global sustainability leader for Intuit. “The number one reason we launched the program was we wanted to have a bigger impact than just focusing on our company’s environmental footprint,” he said. “We have a campus in Texas that is 100% wind powered. But we wondered: What is the greatest impact that we could have? What if we could come up with a solution that we could offer to our employees? What about our customers? What about anyone in Texas?”
REI joins the effort
This summer, REI joined the program, purchasing power from the local wind farm for six of its retail locations (Dallas, Fort Worth, Plano, Houston-Friendswood, Houston-Willowbrook and Houston-Galleria).
“RPD was founded to provide simple, affordable access to local, physical, renewable energy,” said Eric Alam, CEO of RPD Energy. “We’ve been able to establish a solution to powering REI stores in Texas that does just that.”
While REI has used 100% renewable electricity since 2013, through a combination of onsite solar and RECs, this program offers something new. For the first time, REI stores in Texas can purchase renewable energy directly from a wind farm that generates enough power to provide about 91,000 average Texas homes with clean energy each year. And REI is letting employees and members know that they can do the same.
“The exciting thing about this program is that the renewable electricity is from a local Texas wind farm, which ensures that more of the benefit goes to the local economy,” said Susan Long, sustainability initiative manager for REI. “A real prize is to bring our members along with us on our sustainability journey. We are able to offer an on-ramp for our members and employees in Texas to sign up for locally generated, renewable energy at a price competitive to regular grid power.”
If the programs continue to be successful, experts say industry players in other markets could join the efforts, offering more Texans—and Americans—the opportunity to purchase local, renewable energy at competitive prices.
To learn more about how to purchase renewable energy to power your home or business in Texas, go to lonestarenergytx.com/go/wind.
Editor’s note: REI stores in Austin, Southlake and San Antonio are not currently able to participate in the program as they do not have a choice of energy provider. Learn more here.