Learning more about Dominion Power’s Renewable Energy Certificate (REC) program put somethings in perspective.
Last Thursday at the Green Drinks Arlington gathering over at Buzz Bakery in Ballston, the Green Drinks crew offered some kitschy advice: come get enlightened and maybe catch a buzz. Yeah. Hardy har har. These ladies are funny. Buzz Bakery is a local chain known for their coffee, sweets and sustainability through the use of the Arcadia farm, which we’ll talk about again soon, but the enlightening part, yes, another pun, was the chat with a representative of 3 Degrees, Inc., the contractors who work for Dominion Power to work community outreach regarding the green energy program called Dominion Green Power.
Enlightening, indeed. The representative started out the evening by defining what renewable energy certificates are= a “REC is like a receipt for the environmental benefit created when renewable energy is produced. Technically speaking, it is a guarantee that one megawatt-hour of renewable energy was produced and delivered to the regional power pool.” So, that is a REC. It’s like an IOU of sorts for the green power that will be delivered. Well put. So, with that explanation of what Dominion’s Green Power plan was actually doing, the selling of RECs, not necessarily sending “green ions” and the true “green energy” to your home, but instead allowing the participants of the Green Power program to buy RECs which would inturn “offset” the environmental impact of all other energy sources, in essence. This is where things got dicey.
She may have then felt a bit ganged up on, as many of the 20 folks in the gathering leaned in closer with their Buzz coffees and special green drinks to hear more about what Dominion was actually buying the RECs in. Biomass? Hmmmm. Is this the burning of excess lumber? Yikes. This is no bueno. Solar and Wind energy that is coming from Mississippi and Tennessee? Uh, that is silly. Why isn’t their anything sourced locally to give back to the local economy. Well, apparently there will be soon, but “local economy” is more like the South Carolina and West Virginia local economy markets. Next came the point that made the folks attending the gathering at Buzz really buzzzzz. Buzz. Buzz. The cost of buying the RECs is at at premium; instead of having a 1 to 1 cost for helping to “over time create environmental benefits” you would have to pay an additional 1.3 cents per kilowatt-hour over and above what your neighbor who isn’t participating in the program would pay. Another fine print item is that the rates will change; Dominion expects the REC rates to stay the same through 2012, but they may change, so your bill could go haywire. All this to do good? Yikes. This means, that you’re buying at a premium, renewable energy certificates from non-local energy sources that aren’t actually even coming directly to you. They say that you will be getting “a blend of renewable resources which is most likely to include wind, biomass, and biogas, but may also include solar, low-impact hydro and geothermal energy.” But you won’t know until you get your REC on your bill which will be written as a separate line item, apparently.
On the brighter side of this energy conundrum was the visual:
The image of the typical home using the 100% block of RECs option is equivalent to not driving a car on the highway for 18,649 miles or like planting 212 trees. Interesting. Apparently the EPA figured this little gem out. Some of the questions that couldn’t be answered because of authorization purposes: Why this wasn’t tax deductible to be a part of a program such as this?How come the program is so much more expensive than being a part of a regular non-environmentally friendly program? What are the other competitors in the industry?Why is all of the energy brought in from afar?
It sounds like a lovely idea- to have cleaner energy. But do you really want to pay the premium for energy that is coming in from everywhere but locally? That doesn’t sound nearly as sustainable as it should be. Clean currents is another company that offsets energy with RECs they are some of that competition that we couldn’t get them to chat about, but it is totally understandable.
It was an enlightening meeting and makes us all want to know more about cleaner energy options like solar power, wind energy and even that not so fun sounding biomass. What do you think? Join the discussion.
Tags: biogas, Biomass, Buzz Bakery, clean energy, cleaner energy, Dominion Green Power program, Dominion Power, environmental benefit, geothermal energy, green energy, low-impact hydro power, RECs, renewable energy, renewable energy certificates, solar energy, wind energy