Green powerless in chemicals

The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Department of Energy (DOE), and the Center for Resource Solutions awarded late last month their annual Green Power Leadership Awards to 25 organizations/companies who either purchase, supply or develop renewable energy (solar, wind, geothermal, low-impact biomass, and low-impact hydro resources) across the US.

Unfortunately, none of them is from the chemical industry.

The awards serve to recognize the leading actions of organizations, programs, and individuals that significantly advance the development of green power sources. It is curious to see why nobody from the chemical industry is recognized in these awards since it is one of the leading developer in the renewable energy market. And shouldn’t the chemical industry be a big purchaser of green power since they helped developed this market in the first place?The EPA also ranked every quarter the country’s top green power purchasers across individual industry sectors, and in the chemical sector, only DuPont, Dow Chemical and Monsanto were included in the October 2008 list.

Organizations who meet EPA’s green power purchase requirements use any combination of three different product options: (1) Renewable Energy Certificates, (2) On-site generation, and (3) Utility green power products. The EPA says the purchase amounts reflect U.S. operations only and are sourced from U.S.-based green power resources.

Maybe the price of green power is still too expensive for chemical companies to bear although according to a recent report from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), green power pricing premiums have continued to fall, owing to a combination of higher prices of conventional generation fuels and lower renewable resource costs.

Also according to NREL, more than 850 utilities, or about 25% of utilities nationally already offer green power programs to customers. The group estimates the market value of US green power sales in 2007 to be between $85 million and $125 million.


Wind energy represented 55% of total green power sales, followed by biomass energy sources,including landfill gas (28%), hydropower (11%), geothermal (3%), solar (<1%), and other sources (2.5%).

One Response to Green powerless in chemicals

  1. Pradeep 18 November, 2008 at 2:46 pm #

    Unfortunately, for the chemical industry, it all comes down to the price of hydrogen. The steam methane reforming (SMR) reaction is one of the cheapest sources of H2 currently. As I mentioned in my previous post, it is a tall order (IMO) to think of producing H2 in such quantities without using any feedstocks.

    Hope persists though. A Japanese company (Mitsui Chemicals) plans to produce H2 by solar photocatalysis and uses this hydrogen to react with CO2 to produce methanol. At 110 tons/year (TPY) of CH3OH, this process requires 20 TPY of H2. This is peanuts by chemical industry’s standards, but is a big deal to produce using renewable energy.

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