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Rocky Mountain Power is getting praise for its Blue Sky renewable energy program.

A unit of the U.S. Department of Energy said PacifiCorp's Blue Sky program ranked in the top five nationally in two of five categories last year in its annual listing of leading utility green power initiatives.

PacifiCorp's program had 76,322 participants at the end of 2010, second only to Portland General Electric, which claimed 77,907. And it ranked third behind Austin Energy and Portland General in the amount of green energy it sold — 67.1 megawatt hours, said the agency's National Renewable Energy Laboratory.

PacifiCorp does business in Utah, Idaho and Wyoming as Rocky Mountain Power.

"We launched our Blue Sky program in 2000, and since then participation among our customers has steadily increased," said Jeff Hymas, a spokesman for Rocky Mountain Power.

He noted that last year the number grew upward of 8 percent, to more than 34,400. Of that figure, about 30,000 live in Utah.

Under the Blue Sky program, consumers pay a premium on their monthly electricity bills — $1.95 for each 100 kilowatt-hour block of Blue Sky energy they buy — so they can be assured they are supporting the production of electricity from renewable resources.

When a customer commits to buying one or more blocks of renewable energy under the program, the utility promises a similar quantity of electricity generated from wind farms or other renewable resources will be put onto the regional distribution grid.

"Participating in utility green power programs is one way that consumers can support renewable energy development. These utilities are the national leaders," senior analyst Lori Bird said in a statement announcing the National Renewable Energy Laboratory's 2010 rankings.

The lab noted that green power sales from utility programs exceeded 6 million megawatt-hours in 2010, with wind energy representing more than 75 percent of electricity generated in such programs. A megawatt is enough energy to run the appliances in 750 homes. It said more than 850 utilities across the United States offer green power programs.

Hymas noted that since 2006, Blue Sky customers have helped fund 66 community-based renewable energy projects in Rocky Mountain Power's service area.

steve@sltrib.comTwitter: OberbeckBiz —

What is the Blue Sky program?

R It is an easy way for Rocky Mountain Power customers to support renewable energy production. When customers enroll in the program and pay $1.95 a month for a 100 kilowatt-hour block, the utility promises that amount of renewable energy will go onto the regional power grid. —

Funding for renewable energy projects

O Apply as an organization for funding for a community-based renewable energy project through Rocky Mountain Power by July 1.