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CLEAN ENERGY

Most of our nation’s electricity is generated from dirty fossil fuels such as coal and natural gas that contribute to global warming and air and water pollution. Solar, wind, and other forms of renewable energy are a cleaner and more sustainable alternative that you can tap into—no matter where you live—by purchasing renewable energy credits (RECs).

What the Heck Is a REC?

Renewable energy generation creates two distinct products: electricity and the environmental attributes associated with the generation of that electricity, such as zero toxic pollution and global warming emissions. Because these attributes have value to people who want cleaner energy, they can be sold in the form of RECs (also known as tradable renewable certificates or green tags). One REC represents the environmental attributes of one kilowatt-hour (kWh) of renewable electricity.

Think of a REC as an investment in renewable energy. By purchasing RECs, you provide developers with additional revenue they can use to build new generating facilities. As renewable electricity flows into the power grid, it generally displaces fossil fuel-based electricity, so increased sales of RECs will keep more polluting electricity off the grid and contribute to a more sustainable power system.

Many utilities offer RECs as part of a “green power” program; call your local provider to find out whether it offers such a program. Even if it doesn’t, you can still obtain RECs through independent vendors (without having to switch from your current electricity provider).

Pricing

For the purposes of your household energy budget, consider RECs an add-on cost to your regular electricity bill, since REC pricing reflects the added cost of renewable electricity generation. The unit price can vary from 0.5 cent to more than 3.5 cents depending on the energy source and the location, generating capacity, and age of the generating facility.

RECs are generally sold in blocks of 100 to 500; most providers offer tools to help you determine how many blocks you should purchase to offset all or part of your household electricity use.

A “Green” Guarantee

Shop around and find a REC product that fits your budget and any specific needs you have in terms of the type of renewable energy you want to support. And make sure your green power purchase is truly sustainable by choosing RECs that have earned the Green-e seal shown here. Green-e is a voluntary certification program that protects consumers by verifying that renewable electricity products meet the program’s environmental standards.

Written by: Union of Concerned Scientists.


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