You probably know about the benefits of green power or renewable electricity produced by sources such as wind or the sun. Renewable electricity produces no fossil fuel-based greenhouse gas emissions or other air pollutants. That makes it cleaner than electricity that comes from burning coal or natural gas.
REC – Understand the process
But if you don’t have your wind turbine or solar panels, how can you use renewable electricity? With renewable energy certificates (also known as “RECs”), you can purchase renewable power and help the renewable energy market to grow. To understand how RECs work, it helps to understand how electricity is generated and delivered. From fossil fuel-based power plants to wind farms, every power generator produces electricity. This electricity travels to you through a network of transmission and distribution wires, which we call the electric power grid. Electricity from many different sources mixes in the grid.
How it works
There’s no way to distinguish the exact source that your electricity came from. So how can a consumer-like you know that the power you’re using is from renewable resources? That’s where renewable energy certificates come in. Each REC represents a specific amount of electricity produced and delivered to the power grid by a renewable resource such as wind or solar. Let’s take a wind turbine, for example. For every megawatt-hour of electricity it produces, the turbine’s owner generates a REC that they can either keep or sell. If you buy the REC, you are now the owner of that green power. RECs allow you to claim that the electricity you use came from a renewable resource with low or zero emissions.
Anytime someone claims to use renewable electricity, RECs are involved. Even if you produce your renewable power on-site, you’re generating your own RECs. RECs are part of every renewable energy purchase, and they’re a credible way to buy and sell renewable electricity because RECs can be uniquely numbered and tracked. Just like an online bank account that keeps track of your electronic banking transactions, anytime a REC is sold, some systems track and record it.
Once you buy a REC and say that you’re using green power, the REC can no longer be sold or used by someone else. The REC can be “retired” in the tracking system to prevent someone else from claiming it. EPA recommends buying RECs that are certified and verified. This ensures that your green power was generated by a quality renewable resource, and what you bought was produced.
Importance of a REC
Why are RECs so important? because they are the currency of the renewable energy market. They allow people and organizations to choose cleaner sources of energy and reduce their carbon footprints. RECs give you the flexibility to support renewable energy even if you can’t generate it yourself or if your local utility doesn’t offer a green power product. If RECs did not exist, it would be difficult to say for sure that you’re using renewable electricity.
In today’s electricity market, RECs do make a difference. By buying RECs, you’re providing revenue to support renewable energy projects. When enough people buy RECs, these purchases promote growth in the green power marketplace and help to avoid greenhouse gas emissions across the country.
For more information about RECs and how they work, visit the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Green Power Partnership at https://www.epa.gov/greenpower