EPA challenges Fortune 500

The federal Environmental Protection Agency announced a “green power challenge” to Fortune 500 companies Monday in San Francisco, tasking them with doubling their purchases of renewable energy.

The EPA hopes that 5 billion kilowatt hours of renewable energy will be purchased by January 2008 by the nation’s largest firms, double what 40 Fortune 500 firms already purchase.

Renewable energy includes wind power, solar power and other power sources with lower environmental impact than burning fossil fuels. Purchasing the power enables more growth in the sector, providing jobs and domestic energy resources, said Kathleen Hogan, director of EPA’s climate protection partnerships division. The challenge by the EPA took place at the National Renewable Energy Marketing Conference.

The firms participating don’t have to buy the power directly from wind or solar farms, but may purchase renewable energy certificates, which pay for the power to be produced elsewhere and arguably increase overall demand for green power.

“We are in very few markets where we have the opportunity to purchase green power directly,” said Wells Fargo & Co. (WFC) VP Mary Wenzel.

The San Francisco bank is already a leader in green purchasing, having pledged in October to buy some 550 kilowatt hours of renewable energy via certificates, approximately 40 percent of the firm’s total energy consumption, EPA records indicate. It is second only to the Air Force in terms of green energy purchased, though several smaller firms have purchased a greater percentage of their total energy consumption.

“We have seen and expect to see our energy costs increase,” and are trying to benefit economically and environmentally from the purchase, Wenzel said.

Representatives for Silicon Valley technology firms Hewlett-Packard Co. (HPQ) and Cisco Systems Inc. (CSCO) both spoke about designing energy-efficient products as they pledged to participate in the challenge. HP also spoke of a more unusual measure to conserve resources.

The firm plans to consolidate its offices by around half over the next five years, requiring employees who frequently aren’t in the office to share desks, as well as reducing cubicle size by purchasing flat-screen computer monitors. Less office space requires fewer resources to maintain, VP Steve Brashear and program manager Robert Parkhurst said. The firm is trying to reduce its carbon dioxide emissions 15 percent by 2010.

“What we’re actually doing is matching the way employees use cubicles today,” Brashear said.

Top 10

Local Fortune 500 companies

» Chevron Corp. (CVX)

» Hewlett-Packard Co. (HPQ)*

» McKesson Corp. (MCK)

» Wells Fargo & Co.* (WFC)

» Intel Corp.* (INTC)

» Safeway Inc.* (SWY)

» Cisco Systems Inc.* (CSCO)

» Gap Inc. (GPS)

» Oracle Corp.* (ORCL)

» Sanmina-SCI Corp. (SANM)

*Already participating in EPA Green Power Partnership

— Fortune Magazine, www.epa.gov

kwilliamson@examiner.com

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