|What's in your Green Energy?|
|Written by Clean Currents Resi|
|Thursday, 29 March 2012 10:37|
If you’re a consumer who buys green energy, how does your voluntary purchase of green energy interact with your state’s Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS), the law requiring that every energy supplier in that state receive a minimum amount of “clean” energy as part of its overall energy portfolio?
The dirty little secret of some companies that are selling you “green” power is that the power they use to meet their state RPS standard comes from sources you might consider dirty. In Maryland and Washington, DC, any company that sells electricity is supposed to get a certain percentage (currently just under 10% but ramping up to 20% by 2020) of that energy from “renewable” sources. The two jurisdictions have similar laws (I should know, I wrote most of the Maryland law that was used as a model for DC), with a few differences resulting from new legislation in recent years. They both categorize renewable resources as “tier one” or “tier two.” The original intent was for tier one to be filled with the cleanest and truly renewable sources such as wind, sustainable biomass, or solar. Tier two was an unfortunate compromise forced on us by legislators who wanted to include industries with well connected lobbyists or with well placed facilities in key districts. It includes “black liquor,” a substance that is produced by the paper making process and then burned to make electricity (how is that clean or renewable?). It also used to include Municipal Solid Waste Incineration (MSW), otherwise known as burning garbage to make electricity.
However, Maryland’s elected leaders, in their "wisdom" saw fit last year to move garbage burning to tier one (over my and the environmental community’s objections). Burning chicken litter is also allowed to qualify in Maryland. I guess the only thing they’ve kept out of the clean energy standard is burning tires to make electricity (believe it or not, that was proposed, and I’m sure will find it’s way into Maryland’s standard eventually – that industry just needs to hire a better lobbyist).
When consumers buy green electricity, the electricity suppliers are supposed to get that exact percentage of green electricity they bought, ABOVE AND BEYOND the minimum RPS requirements. So, if Joe Smith is getting 100% wind power from Clean Currents, none of that wind power is supposed to be used to meet our RPS standard. If the RPS standard is 6% tier one that year, we would in effect buy 106% clean energy for Joe Smith. But what if some or all of that clean energy is garbage incineration? Would Joe Smith, or you, be happy knowing that your 100% green energy product also supports electricity from garbage incineration? That’s the dirty little secret that you as a consumer don’t know.
Let me be clear – Clean Currents is willing to publicly divulge what power we bought to meet the Maryland and Washington DC RPS standards. In fact, I’ll tell you right now. We exclusively purchased wind power to meet both the tier one and the tier two parts of the RPS. Ask our competitors what they bought and you probably won’t get an answer. Yet, it’s a really important consideration. Would you rather buy wind power from a company that only puts wind power in the grid, or would you rather buy from a company that also buys garbage incineration power or black liquor power? If your “100% wind” power option also includes 6% black liquor, have you really taken the clean step you thought you did? The bottom line is that not all green power options are the same. Be sure you know what’s in your “green” mix before you buy.
I'm like many mothers I know, concerned about the planet our kids will inherit and overwhelmed by daily life. Clean Currents made it simple and affordable to switch to 100% wind power, without breaking my back or the bank.
- Residential Customer Michelle Culp