DENVER, July 28 (AP)--When people ask why the Episcopal Church promotes renewable energy, the Rev. Sally Bingham mentions Noah. She refers to his saving the animals from the flood as the first "endangered species act."

Bingham, head of the environmental ministry at Grace Cathedral in San Francisco, said, "The covenant between God and Noah was for generations to come, and that covenant was for every living thing, not just humans."

The Bible calls people to be good stewards of the earth, she said, explaining the basis for a growing movement linking faith and environmentalism.

Two years ago, Bingham founded Episcopal Power and Light, a California-based group that works with churches that want to switch to green power: wind, solar, or geothermal energy.

Many churches, including Grace Cathedral, have contracted with Vermont-based Green Mountain Energy, generally in markets where the utility industry has been deregulated.

The California Council of Churches plans to start California Interfaith Power and Light in September. The organization would be patterned after the Episcopal group.

Churches in other states, including New Jersey and Maine, have used Episcopal Power and Light as a model to cut the use of fossil fuels. The carbon dioxide created by burning coal and oil is blamed for global warming and other environmental problems.

Bingham said she believes it's up to churches to set an example. The Episcopal Church passed a resolution in 1997 urging members to conserve energy.

And the church brokered a deal to run its 10-day national convention in Denver earlier this month on renewable energy.

The convention, which drew about 15,000 people, is believed to be the first such national gathering to go all green.

"It allowed us to put our faith into action," Bingham said.

She and Steve MacAusland of Boston, head of the Committee on Faith and the Environment for the Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts, negotiated with Public Service Co. of Colorado to use wind power generated by the utility's wind farm in the northern part of the state.

The electricity to the convention center flowed from the power grid, a network of power producers and consumers. So, the wind power bought by the Episcopal Church may have actually helped homes throughout the Denver area keep cool.

"Basically, they're sponsoring our ability to provide wind power," Public Service spokeswoman Jessica Anderson said.

Public Service charges an extra $2.50 for a block of 100 kilowatt hours of wind power because it costs more than conventional energy to produce. Anderson said a household uses an average of 600 kilowatt hours a month.

The Episcopal Church paid about $11,000 more for the renewable energy. But Bingham said it amounted to only about 10 cents extra a day per person.

Episcopal Power and Light has provided a blueprint for other conventions, said Scott Ingvoldstad, spokesman for the Colorado branch of the conservation group Environmental Defense, formerly known as the Environmental Defense Fund.

The group has been important in raising awareness about renewable energy, said Suzie Quinn, spokeswoman for Green Mountain Energy.

"The church affiliations are a wonderful network for us," she said. "Their platform for environmental stewardship is a powerful connection for us."

Green Mountain does not produce electricity but sells power from renewable energy sources to about 100,000 customers in California, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey. As more churches and their members sign up, the demand for clean energy will grow, and more wind and solar plants will be built, Quinn said.

The church is the perfect institution to lead the way, Bingham said.

"If the Senate is not going to pass the Kyoto protocol, or if the government has difficulties with it," she said, referring to a greenhouse-gas reduction plan agreed to by many nations at a 1997 meeting in Kyoto, Japan, "we believe the church can get this done."

"Some people think the environment is a political issue the church shouldn't be involved with," Bingham said.

But, she said, "People of faith have a responsibility to keep air and water clean."

"Jesus was an active person," Bingham said. "Praying about clean water and air is fine. But taking action to make sure the air and water are clean, that's where we put our faith into action."

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