The EPA (United States Environmental Protection Agency) issues something you may have heard of called Renewable Energy Certificates or RECs. What are they? And how do they impact you?
When you look at all the information surrounding Renewable Energy Certificates or RECs, it can be overwhelming. So we’re going to simplify it for you. More importantly, we’re going to explain what it means to you.
Why Are RECs Needed?
The first thing you need to know about RECs is to understand how electricity is delivered to your home. Some energy source must generate the electricity – water passing through a hydroelectric dam, nuclear reactors, spinning blades on a wind turbine. And of course, solar panels. The electricity generated is distributed throughout the electric “grid”, providing power to homes and businesses.
Where did the electricity that was generated to power your home come from? Was it from a renewable source like wind or solar? It’s impossible to tell. That’s where Renewable Energy Certificates come in. A Renewable Energy Certificate certifies and verifies that the energy produced came from a valid renewable energy source.
If you’ve ever been approached by a “green energy” company offering to switch you to their company to help you support renewable energy (such as Green Mountain Energy owned by NRG Energy or some other clean energy producer), you might have wondered how it works. If my electric company doesn’t change, how can I be sure that the energy my home uses is actually from a renewable source? RECs address this issue. It confirms that the company you’ve chosen to generate electricity really is using renewable sources. So even if you can’t install solar panels on your home or you live in an apartment, you can still support solar energy projects.
Can I Purchase Renewable Energy Certificates?
RECs are available for organizations large and small, non-profit and for-profit to purchase if they generate their own electricity from renewable sources. Qualifying organizations include:
- Publicly and privately held corporations
- Federal, state, and local government agencies
- Educational institutions
There are other requirements. Here is the checklist:
- Look at your annual electricity use in the US
- Check to see if you meet the minimum green power usage requirements (depends on how much your organization uses)
- The organization doesn’t have to be 100% renewable immediately
- Complete the Green Power Partnership agreement
- Provide annual updates of your usage (this is a requirement)
The Deep Stuff
There is a LOT of information about RECs published by the EPA. To skip the details and go straight to the source, follow the links at the end of this article.
As a typical homeowner, the following information may not interest you. In the case that it does, here are some details about how RECs work.
1 REC = 1MWh (megawatt hour) of electricity. For every MWh of electricity produced by your clean energy source, a REC can be purchased. That makes you the owner of that energy. You can buy or sell that REC. The EPA describes it as the “currency of the renewable energy market”.
The generation of the electricity can come from installations on your property or from an offsite location such as a solar farm. You’ll want to get a REC even if you chose not to sell it. It proves your claim that you use green energy and it’s good for marketing.
There is a host of information ranging from how to become a partner and its benefits, Database of State Incentives for Renewable Energy (DSIRE), available grants, even tools to help you market your Green Power Partnership.
To get a high-level understanding of all that we’ve discussed, watch the videos provided by the EPA below. For detailed information about Renewable Energy Certificates, click the links at the bottom of this article.
The information provided in this article comes from publicly accessible government websites.