Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Renewable Energy Certificates

My head is freakin' spinning. Here I am, trying to find out a way to get our home hooked up to some honest to goodness green energy, and I find that our electric company, AEP Ohio, has a "Green Pricing Option." Hmm. What exactly does that entail, I wonder? The answer is: Renewable Energy Certificates, or REC's.

I'd never heard of REC's before, so I started doing some research. Enter head spinning.

My first question was, obviously, what the hell is a Renewable Energy Certificate? The short answer is that an REC is a piece of paper certifying that one megawatt of renewable energy has been produced by a renewable energy generator (such as a wind turbine, solar panel, etc.). The REC's are sold to individual buyers or companies, such as AEP.

So, is AEP producing this energy? In other words, where did AEP get the certificates? According to their website, they purchased 50,000 REC's through a "competitive bidding process" and are reselling them to their customers at a premium of $0.70 more than the customer's normal electricity bill. As I see it, this means that the customer is paying $0.70 more just to tell AEP that they want renewable energy. Nothing wrong with that. If the customers snatch up these rebundled 100 kW blocks that AEP is selling, AEP will be encouraged to continue to buy more, right? AEP plans currently to end the REC program in December 2008 (or sooner if all 100 kW blocks are bought up).

Doesn't this mean, though, that YOU the purchaser aren't actually getting the renewable energy? You're really just supporting it's use on the AEP grid, right? I'm still trying to figure this out.

The other question is, what kind of renewable energy is AEP buying with these certificates? The answer in this case is landfill gas. LANDFILL GAS!? Are you kidding me!? THAT'S my "renewable energy" option? Um, I don't want that stuff renewed, first of all. Second, doesn't it have toxins? Third, isn't that stuff nasty dirty to produce? Good god. I don't want to pay for that.

Or do I? Is it more important to get the ball rolling by supporting AEP's effort to provide alternative energy sources to its customers, or is it more important to make sure that AEP gets it right... right now?

*sigh* Time to look into solar panels before Strickland's repeal of the Residential Renewable Energy Grant...

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