The Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Green Power Partnership (GPP) awards 17 organizations annually out of the 1,000 who take part in its voluntary renewable energy purchasing program. Three organizations were awarded Green Power Partner of the Year, including Kohl’s Department Stores who ranked number one of the three. Kohl’s ranks number one on the GPP list for the retail sector, third among Fortune 500 companies, and third overall.
This year is the third consecutive year Kohl’s received a GPP award. In 2007, Kohl’s received an award for its green power purchase, and in 2008 for its on-site renewable energy generation. Kohl’s joined the GPP in 2006.
Kohl’s Department Stores bills itself as the “world’s largest retail host of solar power.” The Wisconsin-based company has 1,022 stores in 49 states, and has 78 on-site solar power systems in California, Oregon, New Jersey, Wisconsin, Connecticut, and Maryland. Ten more solar systems are being constructed. The solar power systems provide 20 to 50 percent of a store’s electricity needs. In 2008, 19,126,000 kilowatt hours (kWh) of Kohl’s electricity came from on-site solar power, accounting for two percent of its power use.
Kohl’s also purchases renewable energy certificates (RECs). The EPA defines a REC as representing the “property rights to the environmental, social, and other nonpower qualities of renewable electricity generation.” Kohl’s purchased 600,990,000 kWh of RECs in 2009.
“To receive the Green Power Partner of the Year Award is a tremendous honor,” said Ken Bonning, Kohl’s executive vice president of store planning and logistics. “We strive to set an example of how a business can consistently implement and explore sustainable solutions that make sense for the bottom line, the environment and the communities we serve.”
“EPA’s Green Power Leadership Award winners are raising the bar for green power purchasing,” said Kathleen Hogan, Director of EPA’s Climate Protection Partnerships Division. “By using renewable energy, Kohl’s Department Stores is helping our environment by leading our national transition to clean energy; they are a model for others to follow.”
The Benefits of RECs
The Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) points out that electricity generation is “the largest industrial polluter in the country” producing two-thirds of annual U.S. sulfur dioxide emissions, 30 percent of nitrogen dioxide emissions, and 40 percent of carbon dioxide emissions. One of the biggest barriers to increasing the use of renewable energy sources is cost.
The EPA believes the flexibility of RECs “allows organizations to support renewable energy development and protect the environment when green power products are not locally available.” According to the the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA), RECs put more “wind or other clean energy sources on the wires.”
The environmental organization, 3Degrees, believes RECs are an important factor in “building new, clean renewable energy generation facilities.”