What are Renewable Energy Certificates (recs)?

What is a REC?

A REC stands for a Renewable Energy Certificate. RECs were created by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as tools to track the environmental benefits associated with renewable energy.  One REC is equivalent to 1000 kWh of renewable energy produced – which is roughly the amount of energy that an average single-family home in the Mid-Atlantic consumes in one month.  When a renewable energy generator such as a wind farm produces electricity, it places that electricity onto the electric grid.  The electric grid collects electricity from all power generators (coal, oil, natural gas, wind farms, nuclear reactors, hydro dams, solar panel fields, etc).  This aggregated electricity is then transmitted through wires to homes and businesses.

RECs Represent the Environmental Benefits of Renewable Energy:

When you purchase RECs or when you enroll in Clean Currents wind power, you are taking ownership of the environmental benefits associated with the electrons that the wind turbines placed onto the grid.  These RECs, can be “bundled” with your electricity usage through a power contract or they can be purchased separately from your electric bill to balance (offset) your energy consumption.  Either way, their positive impact in fighting global warming and supporting renewable energy is the same.

When a wind farm is operational and producing electricity, there are measurable environmental and health benefits, including displaced air pollutants and global warming gases that are not being emitted into our air.  Selling RECs is a vital way for renewable energy generators to finance further development.  For example, a wind farm earns revenue by selling the electricity it produces as well as by selling the associated RECs.  When you buy RECs you are helping to directly fight global warming and air pollution, and support further development of renewable energy sources.

Carbon offsets and RECs:

The environmental benefits of RECs can also be used to offset the negative “footprint” of other polluting activities.  Each REC that is produced is associated with 1000KWh of renewable energy produced, which displaces carbon-emitting energy.  One wind power REC offsets approximately 1350 lbs. of Carbon Dioxide.  As a result, it is one of the preferred “carbon offset” mechanisms for businesses and governmental organizations due to the transparency in their production, measurement, and tracking.

Purchasers of RECs provide renewable energy project owners with a revenue stream that supplements the revenue they secure from the sale of the project’s electricity. These additional revenues improve renewable energy project economics, increasing their competitiveness with fossil fuels like coal and natural gas.

Transparency and third-party verification:

To manage the production and sales of RECs, there are governmental and third-party organizations that track and monitor REC sales in order to ensure transparency and legitimacy.  Depending upon the location of the wind farm and where the purchaser resides, one or more methods may be employed.  The best known certification system is the “Green-e Energy” process, managed by the Center for Resource Solutions.  These certified RECs are the standard required for LEED building registration.

All Clean Currents wind power is Green-e Energy certified.