Developing an Internal Electricity Tax

Jan 17, 2013
On January 1, 2013 New Belgium Brewing will redirect money, previously utilized to pay for our participation in the Fort Collins Green Energy Program, to invest in renewable energy and energy efficiency projects directly within our Fort Collins and Asheville breweries. 

Fort Collins Utility’s Green Energy Program has been dear to our hearts since we were founding subscribers in 1999, so we are sentimental about parting ways. We came to this decision after much consideration, and feel that it will help us drive sustainability and innovation. 

New Belgium is honored to have enjoyed such a fruitful partnership with the City of Fort Collins Utilities. We commend the City for being progressive in the creation of such an innovative program which has helped us reduce the impact of our operations. We are fortunate to live in a community that values our natural resources and our collective well-being. 
ROOTS IN SUSTAINABILITY AND INNOVATION.    New Belgium uses natural resources and talented people to create world-class beer—our art and our livelihood.  NBB made a commitment towards sustainability in brewing & business long ago, before the first Fat Tire was sold, when our co-founders included environmental stewardship in the inaugural version of the Company’s Core Values and Beliefs. Since then we have made it our mission to minimize our environmental impact while making good beer. We are Alternatively Empowered which means we make business decisions based on minimizing impact, encouraging the growth of our employee owners, and being responsible to our community.

BRINGING WIND TO FORT COLLINS.    Our relationship with renewable energy and Fort Collins Utilities goes way back. New Belgium conducted an environmental audit in 1998 which showed that the largest contributor to our carbon footprint came from our coal powered electricity. This finding resulted in New Belgium employee-owners voting unanimously to dip into their bonus checks and subscribe to the City of Fort Collins’ Wind Program, paying a voluntary premium over coal prices. When we started purchasing wind power, 100% of it was generated by turbines in Medicine Bow, WY which is sold directly into our grid. With this, New Belgium Brewing became the country’s first brewery to pay a wind premium for 100% of its electricity in 1999.  Signing on to this program solidified our commitment to sustainability and helped to bring more wind energy to Fort Collins. It was a great story of innovation and collaboration with our local Utility.

WIND PROGRAM TAKES HOLD AND EVOLVES.     The Wind Power Program grew in popularity. Businesses and residents all over town started paying the voluntary premium to support renewable energy.  In 2004 the program continued to grow with the passage of Amendment 37, which required 6% of Fort Collins’ power come from renewable sources by 2015. Thus, in 2005, the City of Fort Collins Utility started supplementing the wind program with Renewable Energy Certificates (REC’s). Buying REC’s allows you to purchase the claim to someone else’s renewable energy and the money you spend helps to finance a market for Renewable Energy. REC’s are great instruments for the establishment of new technology. After moving into REC’s, the Utility re-named their Wind Power Program to the Green Energy Program, as it now supported more than wind. In addition to REC’s, the City’s renewable portfolio includes 12 MW of wind energy generated at the Silver Sage Wind Farm, located west of Cheyenne, Wyoming, as well as the upcoming Poudre Valley REA Community Solar Farm. The City’s choice to invest money not just in RECs but also into (often more expensive) local projects parallels our decision to leave the program to invest directly in our facilities.  

DRIVING INNOVATION.    Over the years, the per kilowatt cost of the Green Energy Program has grown as has New Belgium’s electricity use, leading us to wonder whether this was the most game-changing use of our money. What other opportunities might exist to drive change with this size investment? We are fortunate to have space to install renewable energy and the ability to make significant energy efficiency improvements. Not every business has these opportunities, and for them the Green Energy Program might be the most effective option.

CREATING INTERNAL ELECTRICITY TAX.    As of January 1, 2013, we started charging ourselves a per-kilowatt hour tax on our purchased electricity consumption at the same rate charged by the Green Energy Program. This money will be reserved for energy efficiency and renewable energy projects that will help to directly reduce New Belgium’s reliance on fossil fuels. 

WHAT DOES THIS CHANGE MEAN?    Does this mean we are no longer wind-powered?  Our electricity comes directly from our Fort Collins Utility and the amount of wind coming into the grid is not changing. The only change is that we no longer purchase renewable energy credits to offset all of our coal-powered electricity.

Viva la Planet Earth! 
New Belgium