August 28, 2008

Green Power through Renewable Energy Certificates

By Mary Campbell, Extension Director, Urban Sustainability Agent, Pinellas County Extension

Both the Democratic and the Republican Parties have vowed to make their upcoming national conventions more sustainable or “green.” Energy use is a big part of this and, since there is not a renewable energy source available – like solar or wind energy – they intend to buy renewable energy certificates (RECs- pronounced: rěk) to offset the conventional energy used. You can’t typically pipe-in solar or wind power directly, but any event can offset the emissions generated from regular grid power by purchasing renewable energy certificates.

Renewable energy relies on fuel sources that restore themselves over short periods of time and do not diminish. Such fuel sources include the sun, wind, moving water, organic plant and waste material (biomass), and the earth’s heat (geothermal). More than 50% of retail customers in the United States now have an option of purchasing a green power product directly from their electricity supplier.

Choosing to purchase green power supports increased development of renewable energy sources which in turn may reduce the burning of fossil fuels such as coal, oil, and natural gas. Traditional electricity production can be a significant source of air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions. Buying green power can provide valuable benefits such as: avoiding carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, reducing some types of air pollution, supporting the use of renewable energy and demonstrating civic leadership. RECs provide flexibility to support green power when a green power product may not be available from the local energy provider.

Renewable Energy Certificates also known as Green Tags, Renewable Energy Credits, or Tradable Renewable Certificates (TRCs), represent units of power such as kilowatt hours or megawatt hours. They are priced like any commodity, but usually based on the difference between the traditional electric rate and the green energy production cost. The cost is in addition to the cost of conventional power. In the Tampa Bay area, TECO has a renewable energy program. For each five dollar block you purchase, Tampa Electric will distribute 200 kWh of electricity generated from renewable sources to the electric grid that supports your home or business. A typical home uses about 920 kWh per month. Check on-line for the many programs available that offer Renewable Energy Certificates for both home and business. Green energy costs will decrease with improved technology and greater production. Energy conservation is still the most practical and immediate way to reduce the impacts of energy production, so get your energy audit and conserve power whenever possible.

Buying Clean Electricity
Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy
EPA Green Power locator
The Guide to Purchasing Green Power
Green Pricing
TECO Renewable Energy Program
Progress Energy

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