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DOE guide to buying green power

 

What is Green Power?
The term “green power” generally refers to electricity supplied in whole or in part from renewable energy sources, such as wind and solar power, geothermal, hydropower, and various forms of biomass. Increasingly, electricity customers are being given electricity supply options, either as retail power markets open to competition or when their regulated utilities develop green pricing programs. 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. In addition, consumers can support renewable energy development through the purchase of green energy certificates.

Why Buy Green Power?
By choosing to purchase a green power product, you can support increased development of renewable energy sources, which can reduce the burning of fossil fuels, such as coal, oil, and natural gas. Greater reliance on renewable sources also provides economic benefits and can improve our national energy security.

The National Renewable Energy Laboratory’s web site provides an additional discussion of the benefits of renewable energy.

How Do I Buy Green Power?
If retail electricity competition is allowed in your state, you may be able to purchase a green power product from an alternative electricity supplier. Some states have already implemented electricity competition. Check the Status of State Electric Industry Restructuring Activity (PDF 2.1 MB) map, prepared by the U.S. Energy Information Administration, to see if your state has passed an electricity competition law.

Even if your state is not implementing electricity market competition, you may still be able to purchase green power through your regulated utility. More than 600 regulated utilities spanning more than 30 states offer “green pricing” programs (see our map of green pricing programs). The term green pricing refers to an optional utility service that allows customers to support a greater level of utility investment in renewable energy by paying a premium on their electric bill to cover any above-market costs of acquiring renewable energy resources.

Finally, whether or not you have access to green power through your utility or a competitive electricity marketer, you can purchase renewable energy certificates (RECs). RECs (also known as green tags, green energy certificates, or tradable renewable certificates) represent the environmental attributes of power generated from renewable electric plants. A variety of organizations offer RECs separate from electricity service, that is, you need not switch from your current electricity supplier in order to purchase these certificates.

To find out what green power options are available in your state, please visit our Can I Buy Green Power in My State? page, where you can click on your state to view available green power products.

For more information on buying green power, see: Guide to Purchasing Green Power (PDF 1 MB). Download Adobe Reader

Green Power Evaluation and Certification
How can you be sure that your green power purchase will benefit the environment? For more information, see our Consumer Protection page.

Green-e is a voluntary certification and verification program for wholesale, retail, and commercial electricity products, tradable renewable certificates (TRCs) and utility green pricing programs in the U.S. Green-e certifies about 100 retail and wholesale green power marketers across the country.

The Environmental Resources Trust certifies renewable energy certificates (RECs) through its EcoPower certification program. Under EcoPower certification, RECs convey only the renewable energy attributes of renewable electricity and do not convey environmental benefits.

The Power Scorecard is a web-based information tool created by a coalition of environmental groups that lets consumers compare the environmental impacts of green power and conventional power products.

Selected Green Power Customers
Businesses and other non-residential customers such as municipalities and government agencies are increasingly recognizing that green power purchasing can help meet corporate or institutional goals related to environmental improvement and sustainability. Follow the link for a list of selected non-residential green power purchasers. The U.S. EPA Green Power Partnership has additional information on organizations purchasing green power.