PowerOptions, with Tufts University and Endicott College, named first winner of $100,000 Renewable Energy Leadership Prize

Boston Green Ribbon Commission’s New Clean Energy Prize Spurs Area Institutions to Embrace the Potential of Renewable Power, Competing on Innovations and Solutions

February 23, 2016 – A new clean energy leadership competition sponsored by the Boston Green Ribbon Commission (GRC) spawned a variety of innovative approaches for large-scale adoption of renewable energy, demonstrating the Greater Boston area’s appetite for and readiness to lead the way toward a clean, sustainable energy future.  PowerOptions, which won the GRC’s first-ever Renewable Energy Leadership Prize, will use its $100,000 contest award to enable Tufts University and Endicott College to benefit from 12 megawatts (MW) of wind energy for their campus facilities.

The Prize, which was announced last summer, achieved its objective of spurring local leaders who were contemplating large-scale renewable energy procurement strategies to move ahead with specific projects – stimulating the purchase of significant new renewable energy and demonstrating the feasibility, economic attractiveness, and replicability of clean energy strategies. In addition to the winning team, other applicants have indicated intentions to move forward with their projects as well. Taking all applicants’ projects into account, the Renewable Energy Leadership Prize is estimated to result in a total of 44 to 63 MW of additional wind and/or solar generation capacity. Support for the Prize is provided by the Boston-based Barr Foundation as part of its Climate Program and efforts to promote clean energy in the region.

“The Prize proved the feasibility of structuring viable deals in the Boston market.  The kick-start incentive is nice, but no one would do a project at this scale unless it worked economically on its own merits,” said GRC Director Amy Longsworth. “The deal that PowerOptions structured is especially terrific because it should create a ripple effect. They specifically anticipated participation in the same project by additional PowerOptions members, both from within the city of Boston and throughout the region, and designed the arrangement to enable that.”

PowerOptions, the largest energy buying consortium in Massachusetts procures electricity and natural gas supply for 500 non-profit and public members. The non-profit organization teamed up with two of its members, Tufts University and Endicott College, to purchase up to 12 MW of output from a new wind project in New England. The effect of this project and others like it is to help drive additional renewable energy development in New England.

Noting the strength of all of the Prize applications the GRC received (which were scored by a panel of clean energy experts), GRC Executive Director John Cleveland added, “We congratulate PowerOptions, Tufts, and Endicott on their win.  At the same time, we are very excited that the other Prize applicants also continue to move forward with their projects and are in active negotiation.  At the end of the day we anticipate that the Prize will have stimulated a significant amount of new clean energy in Greater Boston.  It also launched a creative learning process that other businesses and institutions will be able to leverage and that promises broader uptake of renewables in the region.”

Significant price drops have created opportunities for large institutions to save money by procuring renewable energy.  Energy users with substantial demand needs can use their purchasing power to procure renewable energy at a significant cost savings over traditional sources of electricity. Still, challenges remain for large institutional energy users to adopt renewables, including complexities in standardization and transparency in the market, and regulatory hurdles.

The PowerOptions purchase will provide up to 45 percent of the annual electricity needs for both Tufts and Endicott. Both institutions are in negotiations for a 20-year contract which could save them up to 15 percent on energy costs over the next 20-years – savings which can then be reinvested in their core educational missions. The project is also expected to avoid up to 14,308 tons of carbon dioxide per year, based on ISO-NE air emissions estimates (the equivalent of emissions from powering nearly 2000 homes).

“We participated in the Green Ribbon Commission’s Renewable Energy Leadership contest as a way to be responsive to the interests and priorities of our members as they strive to meet reduction goals, and we are thrilled to have won,” said Cynthia A. Arcate, president and CEO of Power Options.  “Our model shows that customers can actually purchase renewable energy directly and not just the green attributes, and we intend to replicate this program with other interested members.”

PowerOptions is passing through the entire $100,000 prize to Tufts and Endicott, to help facilitate their participation in the project.

The GRC also commends Boston University and A Better City (ABC) for participating in the Prize’s competitive process, which scored applicants on factors such as the scale of the project, the level of collaboration among multiple institutions, and the project’s degree of contribution to GHG reduction goals and the development of renewable energy. The ABC project represents a coalition of at least four Boston entities, two of which are for-profit organizations. Significant technical assistance was made available to support applicants to aid in exploring large-scale renewable energy options and to build institutional capacity to follow through. Participation in the competition is expected to spur greater adoption of renewable energy among the contest winner and competitors alike.

“Massachusetts is a national leader in clean energy, and innovative partnerships like the Boston Green Ribbon Commission’s Renewable Energy Leadership Prize will ensure this success continues,” said Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Matthew Beaton, a GRC member. “We look forward to seeing the results of this year’s projects and to partnering on future creative initiatives.”

“The Boston Green Ribbon Commission’s Renewable Energy Leadership prize challenges companies, schools, and cultural institutions to step out in front of the clean energy revolution,” said Austin Blackmon, the City of Boston’s Chief of Environment, Energy and Open Space, and a GRC member. “We are proud of Boston-based PowerOptions for its winning entry and we applaud Boston University and A Better City for their projects – all of which will significantly increase renewable power and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. As these efforts gain more attention, we’re confident they will continue to spur adoption of renewable technologies throughout our economy.”

The Prize grew out of the GRC’s Renewable Energy Purchasing Network, a group of large Boston energy users that came together to work through technical issues and leverage joint opportunities for developing renewable energy. For more information, please visit www.greenribboncommission.org.

ABOUT THE BOSTON GREEN RIBBON COMMISSION

The Boston Green Ribbon Commission www.greenribboncommission.org is a group of business, institutional and civic leaders in Boston supporting the implementation of the city’s Climate Action Plan. The plan includes strong recommendations on how Bostonians can increase efficiency, reduce emissions and prepare for extreme weather and higher sea levels.   Many cities have produced similar plans.  But few have also enlisted the support and leadership of the local business community as effectively as Boston, to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions 25 percent by 2020 and 80 percent by 2050.