Have you ever wondered, when you turn on your lights, where that electricity is coming from? In the United States, most electricity comes from coal, natural gas, and nuclear; and some renewable sources, like hydropower, wind, and solar.
No matter where electricity is generated, it is mixed together on the shared electricity grid. When you turn on your lights or TV, you pull some of that electricity out. Once electricity is put on the grid, there is no way to know where it came from or how it was generated, all electricity is the same.
What Is a Renewable Energy Certificate?
Everyone would like to enjoy the benefits of clean renewable power. But most people don’t have the space to put a 200 ft. tall wind turbine in their back yard. Renewable energy certificates from the new energy marketplace make it possible for you to enjoy the benefits of renewable energy without the hassle of owning your equipment.
If you want to green your power, though, you can do that with renewable energy certificates. These certificates are created each time one megawatt-hour of renewable energy is generated and put on the grid, about what an average home uses in a month. The wind turbine spins, or the solar panel collects sunlight, and when enough electricity is generated, a certificate is created.
This certificate proves that one-megawatt hour of renewable energy was generated, and it embodies all the green, environmental benefits of that megawatt-hour—including lower amounts of smog-causing pollution and greenhouse gases, like carbon dioxide. All of these benefits are included in the certificate. Whoever owns the certificate owns that megawatt-hour of renewable energy. Certificates are used by states and the federal government to track the use of renewable energy.
They’re also used by utility green power programs to track which customers receive green power because certificates provide the only means to know that one-megawatt hour of renewable energy was generated on their behalf.
When an individual or business buys a certificate, they are buying renewable energy and can claim all the environmental benefits of that megawatt-hour. These certificates also allow wind and solar developers to build wherever the resources are, knowing they will be supported by customers from across the country.
Renewable energy certificates work because cleaner air and water are worth something extra to all of us, and certificates allow us to buy these environmental benefits no matter where we live. They help bring us that much is closer to true energy independence—power from the sun, wind, and water. And that makes the future brighter for all of us.
How do Renewable Energy Certificates Work?
To understand how renewable energy certificates work, we need to examine how electricity arrives at your home that process involves a set of transmission lines and electrical hardware known as the grid power plants, produce electricity and place it on the grid homes and other buildings pull electricity off the grid. Unfortunately, once electricity enters the grid, it’s impossible to distinguish renewable electricity from electricity produced from another source like a coal-fired power plant which is a problem.
Because not all electricity is created equal. The reality is that the electricity produced by a renewable power source like a wind farm is not the same as electricity produced by a coal-fired power plant. Even if the electrons are indistinguishable renewable energy is sustainable, domestically produced, and clean, no co2, no acid rain, no heavy metals, and no particulate pollution that means healthier people and healthier environments that is what purchasing.
Renewable electricity is all about to enter the renewable energy certificate. Renewable energy certificates act as a tracking system every time a renewable power producer creates a unit of energy. It also produces one renewable energy certificate. A renewable energy certificate is like a seal of approval that electricity was produced from a clean renewable source, and it represents all the benefits of green power like clean air, reduces pollution, etc.
Renewable energy certificates are sold separately from the electricity itself. When you purchase them, you get to claim the environmental benefits of converting your standard electricity into power as a result.
Renewable energy certificates make it easy to convert your electricity to renewable power, without all the hassle of installing solar panels on your roof. Better yet your purchase directly supports renewable energy producers. Since producers get a premium for selling their certificates, driving demands for alternatives to fossil fuels. The more you purchase, the cleaner the world gets for everyone.
There are more than thousands of renewable energy power plants across the US and Canada, including wind, geothermal, hydropower, and solar. Now, more than ever, consumers and companies are recognizing the value of purchasing green power. But, without a solar or wind farm directly powering a business or a home, how can a company or consumer be sure the electricity they are drawing from the power grid is from renewable resources?
That’s where renewable energy certificates or RECs come in. Each REC certifies that a megawatt-hour of electricity was produced by a renewable resource and delivered to the power grid. Enel Green Power’s RECs are uniquely numbered and tracked. So, the partners that purchase them, know the power they are using is being matched and generated by clean, sustainable energy. Owners of RECs can retire them, designating them for the equivalent energy usage of a specific facility or event. This allows the owner to claim that their facility or event is powered by renewable energy.
RECs are the currency of the renewable energy market. They allow buyers to choose clean energy and reduce their carbon footprints, and they support the development of new renewable energy projects, adding even more sustainable power to the grid.
Creating a Renewable Energy Certificate
Most of the 13 states and the District of Columbia, surfed by PJM have goals for how much of the electricity sold, there should come from renewable and alternative sources of energy. these requirements usually are called renewable portfolio standards. the state’s developed these standards to incent the development of new renewable and alternative energy sources. under the standards, a certain percentage of the electricity sold in a state must come from these sources. electric utilities and other electricity suppliers can purchase renewable energy or produce it themselves.
A separate subsidiary of PJM, PJM environmental information services runs a system that tracks the source of electricity produced in the PJM region. the system is called the “Generation Attribute Tracking System” or GATS for short. the system creates certificates for every megawatt-hour of electricity produced including electricity from state-mandated renewable or alternative sources. the certificates are used to prove that state renewable electricity standards have been met. they’re usually called renewable energy certificates.
here’s how it works, we start with the power plants where electricity is generated. power plants can be traditional types such as coal, or natural gas generators, or they can be renewable types such as clusters of wind turbines, or even solar panels on the rooftops of houses. a megawatt-hour is a large unit of energy. a single house with air conditioning might use a megawatt hour or more of electricity during a summer month.
The data about the electricity generated within PJM’s region goes first to PJM. the regional grid operator the data is then passed to the gas generators that do not participate in the PJM. wholesale electricity markets can report their electricity and environmental data directly to GATS, the PJM subsidiary environmental information services validate the data. it then creates a renewable energy certificate for each megawatt-hour of electricity from the sources that states have declared to be renewable or alternative. each month the certificates are deposited into the electronic GATS account of the generator who created the power.
The generator owners can sell their renewable energy certificates to the electric utilities or other electricity suppliers that are responsible to meet the state’s renewable portfolio standards. each state has different requirements for its renewable portfolio standards. each state will accept only certificates that match its renewable requirements. however, the electric utilities and providers understand their state’s requirements and can show their certificates as evidence of meeting them to learn more about the generation attribute tracking system or renewable energy certificates.
You may also like to read: Making a Career in the Renewable Energy Industry