If the human race is going to reach a point of true sustainability on this planet, we need to employ every method available to us. We need to reduce what we use, re-purpose our waste, and ensure that what we do use has the smallest possible impact. When it comes to energy consumption, conservation, efficiency, and green power go hand-in-hand. At Renewable Choice, we are constantly working with our clients to help them measure and reduce their carbon footprint by choosing renewable energy to offset their impact.
There are two ways to switch to renewable energy. The first is to build your own power generator on-site at your home or business (by putting up solar panels, a wind turbine, etc.). The second is to purchase grid-sourced renewable energy certificates. For most companies and institutions it may not be practical to create their own energy–there may be limited natural resources, upfront capital, or a lack of desire to enter the business of energy generation. Luckily for these entities there is a way to choose green power straight from the grid – in the form of renewable energy certificates (RECs).
What is a renewable energy certificate?
A renewable energy certificate, also known as a renewable energy credit or REC, is how we track and trade green power in North America. A REC verifies that one megawatt hour (MWh) of green energy was generated. When a green power facility, such as a wind farm, produces one MWh of electricity and adds it to the power grid, they also generate a corresponding REC in a one-for-one ratio.
Once the electricity is on the power grid, there is no way to accurately track where it ends up; these clean electrons mix with the electricity generated from coal, nuclear, and all other “dirty” sources. We can think of the national power grid as one big pool of energy. Unless you are fully off-grid, there is no way to tell where the electrons running through your computer right now actually originated. However, if you have ownership of RECs corresponding to the amount of power you take out of the pool, you know that at least that much green power was generated at a renewable facility and added back to the power grid.
Buying renewable energy certificates is becoming more popular as we have seen an increase in voluntary buyers over the past six years. Buying RECs is the easiest way to show that you are green powered or using 100% renewable energy – an environmental commitment that can help connect you to customers, partners, and important stakeholders through marketing and branding efforts. Since the REC also embodies the environmental benefits of producing clean energy, such as a reduction in carbon dioxide, the buyer can also impact their greenhouse gas emissions through REC purchases.
The value of the REC system goes beyond value to the buyer. For renewable energy developers, RECs provide an additional income stream that can help make a project viable or more competitive with conventional fossil fuel generators. RECs are produced by clean and renewable sources of energy and allow companies and consumers to offset their conventional electricity use with renewable energy. Wind farms, biomass facilities, small hydroelectric power projects, geothermal projects, and photovoltaic/solar projects all benefit when RECs are purchased.