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About Electricity Generation in New England

What are the sources of my electricity?

When the appliances in your home pull electricity off of the power grid, there is no way of knowing which generators produced the specific electrons that enter your home. Electrons move along the grid according to the laws of physics, so the make-up of the electricity in your home in any given moment depends on where you live, what generators near you are currently producing electricity, how much electricity other people in your area are using, and other factors.

However, we do know the make-up of the electric grid as a whole. Electricity suppliers are required to publish quarterly Disclosure Labels that indicate the sources of the electricity they supply, so we know what percent of their electric load comes from which kinds of sources. In Rhode Island, over 80% of our electricity is generated from fossil fuels and nuclear power resources, which damage both the environment and public health. Much of the remainder of our electricity comes in the form of trash-to-energy, large hydroelectric projects, and unidentified types of power imported from other regions. A state law, the Renewable Energy Standard, requires all electricity suppliers operating in Rhode Island to include just 6.5% new renewables in 2016, with a 1.5% increase per year until 2019.

Electricity suppliers in New England are responsible for purchasing enough power to meet the needs of their customers.  By choosing green power, you are ensuring that renewable energy sources are being put onto the grid to meet your needs. Participating in our green power program does not change the make-up of the physical electricity that enters your home from the electric grid. However, it does allow you to choose renewable energy by claiming the energy produced by the projects in our portfolio as your own. By aggregating consumer buying power, our green power program pushes our grid towards a greener future faster than state law would alone. To learn more about how and why our green power programs make a difference, read on here.

How does my electricity get to me? What is “the grid”?

All New England states share one single network of power lines, called the electric power grid. Generators from all over the region feed power into this grid and energy is drawn out on an as-needed basis. So, when you turn on the lights, you are drawing from a mix of electrons, and since electrons flow according to the laws of physics, the electricity that is actually delivered to your home is determined by which power generators are located closest to you.

The New England electric grid is managed and operated by the Independent System Operator (ISO-NE). ISO-NE is responsible for managing the schedule of which power plants should run when, so there’s always enough power being generated to meet the needs of the region. Because they run intermittently but do not need costly “ramp ups” to get going, renewable energy generators are given preference in adding electrons to the grid when they are operating.

About choosing Green Electricity

What is renewable/green energy?

Energy that is produced from rapidly replenishable or infinite sources, such as the sun, wind, and water, is considered renewable. Electricity generated from renewable sources has a lower impact on public health and the environment than that produced from fossil fuel and nuclear resources for many reasons, including:

  • It emits little or no air emissions;
  • It does not produce harmful radioactive waste;
  • Its fuel sources do not need to be mined or extracted from the earth at alarming rates.

What are "the environmental attributes of renewable energy" or "renewable energy certificates"? What are RECs?

The environmental attributes of renewable energy are the environmental characteristics of the electrons from a renewable energy resource. For every one megawatt-hour unit of electricity that is generated in New England from a renewable energy source, a corresponding "renewable energy certificate" is produced to match. Each certificate documents the characteristics of the power source, information such as air emissions, fuel source, generation date, and date the generator began operating. When these certificates are produced by a renewable resource, they are frequently referred to as Renewable Energy Certificates (RECs). The Independent System Operator of New England (ISO-NE) issues and tracks these certificates through a region-wide accounting system, called the Generation Information System (GIS), which ensures that no double counting is allowed (since you cannot use electrons more than once, you cannot claim a REC to match your electricity use more than once).

Consumers must buy RECs in order to claim the renewable electrons they represent. Though this may seem convoluted, it is necessary to the renewable energy market in some states (Rhode Island & Rhode Island included). Developers in New England rely on REC revenue to help make a project profitable. Plus, since the grid is an electron soup, there is no way to claim renewable energy without RECs to represent it. There is market demand for certificates associated with renewable energy resources because consumers wish to support cleaner energy and electric utilities must meet renewable energy mandates.

When a consumer chooses green power, it means that their green power provider will purchase enough renewable energy certificates to match the customer’s electricity consumption. That is what People’s Power & Light’s green power program does on our members’ behalf.

How do I know renewable electricity will be delivered to my home?

You don’t. Whether or not you choose to support renewable electricity, you draw upon the "pool" of power that makes up the New England electric grid. While it is physically impossible to distinguish and deliver individual electrons to specific homes or businesses, by choosing green power (purchasing Renewable Energy Certificates to match your consumption), you are ensuring that renewable electricity is being delivered to the power grid on your behalf, thus creating a cleaner, healthier overall energy mix.

How can I support renewable energy? What other options do I have to support renewable energy?

There are currently three basic ways you can support renewable electricity:

  • If you are a National Grid customer, you can sign up for Green Power programs by choosing programs like People’s Power & Light’s New England GreenStart or New England Wind;
  • You can make recurring or one-time contributions for renewable energy certificates separate from your utility bill (through programs like People’s Power & Light’s New England Wind Friends);
  • You can install your own renewable energy system, like solar panels. Though installing solar panels doesn't necessarily lower your personal carbon footprint (learn more about that here), more solar panels make our grid greener! For businesses, there may also be opportunities to choose renewable electricity from a competitive electricity supplier and make the cost more manageable. NOTE: to have an impact on regional development, ask your supplier to procure new RECs over and above what is required by the state RES.

1) Sign up for Green Power Programs

We offer two green power options: New England GreenStart and New England Wind. They differ in the types of renewable energy they support, but both come from resources within New England and payments for each are 100% federally tax-deductible. As the name suggests, New England Wind exclusively supports Rhode Island and Massachusetts community-scale wind resources, while New England GreenStart supports an array of technologies, including wind, solar, digester gas (cow power), and low-impact hydro.

If you are a National Grid customer, you can participate in our green power programs through National Grid’s GreenUp program, which enables you to pay for renewable electricity right on your regular monthly utility bill. People’s Power & Light works with National Grid, the state’s largest utility, to offer New England GreenStart and New England Wind to residential and small commercial customers through this program. After joining, the program you choose will appear under the “GreenUp” section of your bill. Paying your bill is still one simple step, but now you’re making a big difference for local renewable energy.

2) Choose Renewable Energy Certificates

Customers who do not have National Grid as their electric utility company can still participate in the New England Wind Friends program completely separate from their utility bill. This program allows you to support the same projects included in the New England Wind program offered to National Grid customers. You may make a one-time or monthly recurring contribution via a credit card.

3) Installing Solar Panels

One of the most direct ways to support the generation of renewable energy resources is to install a system at your own home or business. Though installing solar panels doesn't necessarily lower your personal carbon footprint (learn more about that here), more solar panels make our grid greener! If you think you may be interested in installing your own solar PV system, feel free to give us a call at 1-401-861-6111, and we can help set you in the right direction.

Here is a table that breaks down your options:

What’s it called?

 

New England GreenStartNew England WindNew England Wind Friends
Who can participate?All residential and small commercial National Grid and Eversource electric grid customers in Rhode Island and MassachusettsAnyone!
What does it support?70% small, low-impact hydro, 30% new wind, solar, and anaerobic digester gas (cow power) (30% new)100% new wind resources (100% new)
How do I pay for it?Just keep paying your electric bill! The charge will be included on your bill, and your energy supplier sends this money on to us.By credit card or check.

What are "new" resources?

In Rhode Island, different kinds of Renewable Energy Certificates (RECs) are separated into Classes based on criteria in the state’s Renewable Energy Portfolio Standard (RES). “New” RECs come from specifically defined New England renewable energy generators built since 1997. All electricity suppliers must source 6.5% of their electric load from new RECs in 2016, and the amount required goes up 1.5% every year until 2019. This means that your standard Basic Service electricity mix includes 6.5% renewable energy (in 2016). Because new RECs are part of this “compliance market,” they incentivize more renewable energy on the New England power grid.

Why is it important to support “new” resources?

It is critical to choose new RECs when you make the switch to renewable energy because your purchase keeps a new REC away from the utility or electricity supplier who needs to buy one to comply with the Rhode Island Renewable Energy Standard (RES). This means the utility must find another new REC to buy.

In other words, choosing new RECs ensures that more renewable energy is brought onto the grid above and beyond what is required by law. Non-new REC purchases do not incentivize new projects. Purchasing RECs from non-new projects does not push us forward, as these projects would have been built whether or not someone buys the RECs.

However, even though they are worth only a fraction of a penny, non-new RECs are sold because… why not? When utilities don’t buy them, many “green” competitive suppliers, like Viridian or North American Power, will purchase and re-sell these RECs to New Englanders as a miracle renewable energy product that is cheaper than normal electricity. This is greenwashing. If you live in Rhode Island, purchasing a REC from a huge farm in Texas, for example, is not shifting our grid away from fossil fuels, and it is not shifting Texas’s grid away from fossil fuels. It does absolutely nothing. Click here to learn more about different types of RECs and the dangers of greenwashing.

How do my payments for New England GreenStart or New England Wind support renewable energy generators?

Your payments purchase Renewable Energy Certificates from renewable energy generators in our region. RECs are a valuable source of income for renewable energy developers, without which they would not be able to secure funding for projects in development. Keep reading about why our green power program works. People’s Power & Light signs long-term REC purchase contracts with projects (often during the development phase) on behalf of our members. These contracts guarantee a vital source of revenue to the developer and help them secure the needed funding.

About our Green Power programs

How do I enroll?

  1. Enroll online, quickly and easily. Click here and enter your zip code.
  2. Be sure to have a copy of your National Grid electric bill available for easy reference to your account information.
  3. Not a National Grid electric customer? Click here to join New England Wind Friends Monthly contributors.
  4. If you would prefer to receive an application in the mail or join over the phone, please call our office at 1-401-861-6111 and one of our customer service representatives will assist you.

How does it work?

For National Grid customers, green power is offered through a program called GreenUp. Options are available for both residential and small commercial customers. As your electricity supplier, National Grid will continue to provide your electricity and perform all of its normal functions and services, while People’s Power & Light will be responsible for providing your renewable energy beyond the minimum percentage required by state law. The renewable energy charges will show up right on your electric bill, and you will still make one payment to your utility. It’s easy!

What is the difference between National Grid's GreenUp program and New England GreenStart/New England Wind?

GreenUp is National Grid's green power supply program. We are a supplier to that program. New England GreenStart and New England Wind are People’s Power & Light’s green power programs available through GreenUp. You must choose New England GreenStart or New England Wind, offered by People’s Power & Light. In contrast to other green power suppliers, one of our major incentives is tax-deductibility, as we are non-profit and your contributions are recognized as charitable and for the public good.

How will my Basic Service be affected, and how will I be charged?

If you participate in New England GreenStart or New England Wind, payments for either program will be included in your monthly utility bill. The charges will show up on a separate line item from basic service charges.

Are my payments tax-deductible?

Yes! People’s Power & Light is a non-profit organization, and your payments are recognized as being made for the public good. They are considered a tax-deductible charitable contribution for federal income tax purposes, if you itemize on your federal return. If you are enrolled in New England GreenStart, you would be able to deduct 2.4 cents for each kilowatt-hour you paid for in the calendar tax year. If you are enrolled in New England Wind, you would be able to deduct 3.8 cents per kilowatt-hour you paid for. You cannot get this benefit from any other renewable energy supplier in Rhode Island. People’s Power & Light will provide you with an annual letter that details the amount that you may deduct.

Are there any other payments or fees I should be aware of?

There are no additional and/or required fees associated with joining New England GreenStart or New England Wind. You may be invited to join or make a charitable contribution to People’s Power & Light’s other programs.

Who do I call if I have a power outage?

In the event of a power outage or other service disruption, you should contact your electric utility (National Grid).

How will my electric bill be affected?

Payments for New England GreenStart or New England Wind will be included in your monthly utility bill, and you will see the charges as a separate line item.

What happens if I want to opt out or cancel? Is there a penalty?

You can opt out at any time by calling us at 401-861-6111 or emailing greenreply@ripower.org. When you opt out, your New England GreenStart or New England Wind enrollment will finish out the billing cycle before ending, so you will likely see one final charge.

What is the difference between New England Wind and New England GreenStart?

The two differences between the programs are the price and the sources of renewable energy that make up each product.

New England GreenStart is 2.4 cents per kWh (in addition to regular electric charges) and is sourced locally from a mix of low-impact hydro, wind, solar, and digester gas (cow power). It is 30% "new".

New England Wind is 3.8 cents per kwh (in additional to regular electric charges) and is sourced locally from 100% wind. It is 100% "new".

Read more about the difference and why New England Wind costs a bit more

What are the sources for New England Wind?

New England Wind is sourced from 100% new wind power in Rhode Island and Massachusetts.

How much of New England Wind comes from “new” resources?

New England Wind consists only of new wind resources, located exclusively in Rhode Island and Massachusetts. So the sources are 100% new.

What are the sources of New England GreenStart?

New England GreenStart consists of 30% new renewable energy sources such as wind, solar, and anaerobic digester gas (cow power), and 70% small, low-impact hydroelectric.
All of the resources in New England GreenStart are located in New England, with the vast majority in Rhode Island and Massachusetts.

View a map of our current resources and visit our local sources page.

How much of New England GreenStart comes from “new” resources?

In Rhode Island, 30% of New England GreenStart is generated from new renewable energy resources. Those that are interested in a higher percentage of new renewables should consider New England Wind, which is sourced exclusively from new wind resources.

Whatever happened to the New England Wind Fund?

We first started the New England Wind Fund because we had more demand for wind energy than there were viable wind projects in the area to support. The New England Wind Fund allowed us to use contributions to support projects that had not yet been constructed. Because of changes in policy and voluntary support from people like our members, this is no longer the case. Still, because of the track record we’ve established through our green power programs, we are a credit-worthy purchaser capable of entering into long-term contracts with nascent projects. This allows us to continue the mission of the New England Wind Fund, while supporting wind power projects in real time. Until we have spent all the money contributed to the New England Wind Fund, we will be posting annual reports on this web site.

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