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How to Buy Green Power: Certificates

Renewable energy certificates (often called "green tags", "tradable renewable credits", "TRCs" or "RECs") represent the environmental attributes of power generated from renewable electric plants. These voluntary, separate payments represent a simple way to replace or offset the environmental impacts of "dirty" generation with the environmental benefits of clean renewable energy.

Renewable energy generators and green power marketers offer these certificates separately from electricity service. That is, you do not switch from your electricity supplier in order to purchase green power through certificates. Buying renewable energy certificates is a separate purchase, distinct from your electricity bill. This purchase has the effect of enabling renewable energy generators to produce more renewable energy.

Buying renewable energy certificates is another way to pay for green electricity without being locked into a supply contract. When you purchase renewable energy certificates, you do not change the source of your electricity - you continue to receive the same electricity from the source(s) that currently supply you. Yet, by purchasing renewable energy certificates at the same time, you are effectively paying a green premium to put more green electricity into an electrical grid in the United States.

There are several differences between green electricity products that are called "green supply" and those based on "green certificates". Payment arrangements, contracting and terms of supply are key differences. Yet these two types of products are fundamentally similar in their environmental benefit. Both "green supply" and "certificates" result in more renewable energy being generated and sold.

Green-e is a voluntary certification program for renewable energy products. Green-e certification helps ensure that green power delivers the environmental benefits it promises.

How Do Certificates Work?

  1. Green electricity generators build new renewable energy facilities.
  2. They sell their electricity at the market price and begin delivering electricity to the grid in their area.
  3. They also sell a certificate for every block of electricity they deliver.
  4. The extra revenue from the sale of these certificates allows these green generators to stay in business, covering their higher capital costs.
  5. Each kilowatt-hour that a green generator delivers displaces a kilowatt-hour from other generators, many of which burn fossil fuel.
  6. Because they reduce the use of fossil fuel to generate electricity, renewable energy certificates lead to cleaner air, a healthier environment and greater energy independence for our country.

Anyone in Maine -- whether you have an electricity account or not -- can purchase renewable energy certificates at any time. Many green certificate products are available on the Connection's Green Power Menu. Customers who want to select exactly which facilities produce their green power can work with a broker to purchase certificates directly from the generators they prefer. Please contact us for more information on any of these options.

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