When customers use one of Toronto Dominion Bank's 2,600 ATMs across Canada, they'll also be making an investment of sorts in that country's use of renewable energy.

The bank has entered into a partnership with Bullfrog Power to purchase an amount of renewable energy that?s equal to the energy used by the bank's Canadian ATMs in a year — or about 6,500 kilowatt hours. Bullfrog purchases the energy from third-party providers of wind and low impact water electricity that have been certified by the Canadian government as sources of renewable power.

"Eventually society has to transform to putting renewable power in the mix," says Tom Heintzman, president of Bullfrog Power, a two-year old firm based in Toronto. "In the short term it might be more expensive, but these organizations count it as the cost of being responsible corporate citizens."

TD Bank, which is examining the possibility of making similar arrangements in the U.S., is purchasing "green" power that's about 20 percent more expensive than nonrenewable energy, but much less costly than deploying an entirely new network of green ATMs outfitted with solar panels or some other source of localized renewable power.

"All the energy it would take to install or reconstruct existing ATMs to run on renewable power would probably use so much energy that it would offset any gains you would get," says Nicole Sturgill, research director for delivery channels for TowerGroup in Boston.

The bank's ATM electrical footprint is equivalent to the yearly electrical use of about 650 average homes in Canada. "It's one piece of the pie in terms of reducing our carbon footprint,? says Matthew Cram, a manager for TD Bank Financial Group in Toronto, who says the bank?s other green initiatives include green building projects such as partnering with universities to finance solar roofs and other construction projects that stress renewable energy sources.

TD's ATM initiative is unusual, if not unprecedented. Sturgill says most banks' green initiatives currently involve reducing carbon emissions at offices and other buildings. "Banks have been focusing on green branches with LEED certifications (the U.S. Green Building Council's green building rating system, called Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) and giving customers incentives," she says.

Bullfrog Power provides renewable power for about 6,000 homes and 600 businesses in Canada, and has clients that include Wal-Mart, Manulife Financial, Bank of Montreal, which has bought power for 53 branches, and Royal Bank of Canada, which has a contract for up to 70 branches.

About 80 percent of Bullfrog Power's electricity comes from certified low-impact water sources, which meet a range of criteria, including the protection of indigenous species and local habitat, and measures to minimize fish mortality and preservation of fish migration patterns. The other 20 percent of Bullfrog?s power comes from wind sources. By way of comparison, the current overall energy mix in Ontario is less than one-percent wind, two-percent low-impact hydro, 39-percent nuclear, 37-percent coal, oil and gas; and 21-percent other hydro sources.

Cram of TD Bank says there are also marketing and awareness benefits to choosing ATMs as a venue to introduce a green energy initiative. "If you go to one of our ATMs, you?ll get a message that the ATM is part of a green power initiative. It's a component of consumer education on the value of renewable energy."

(c) 2008 U.S. Banker and SourceMedia, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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