What am I getting when I sign up for renewable energy from a competitive energy supplier?
Some competitive energy suppliers offer renewable energy products. This may include electricity that is made from environmentally-friendly fuel resources, such as wind, water, waste heat or solar energy. These are also referred to as “green” energy offers.
Some competitive energy suppliers also offer renewable natural gas (often referred to as “biogas” or “biomethane”). What distinguishes renewable natural gas from fossil gas is the source of supply. According to the Coalition for Renewable Natural Gas, renewable natural gas comes from the chemical breakdown of organic waste, which produces methane gas that can ultimately be processed for use.
Consumers can also select from other special products that can help them control their use of energy, increase equipment efficiency, and do their part to help the environment.
This all sounds like a lot to consider. The following information provides a high-level breakdown of what you need to know when shopping for a renewable energy product or other products that assist in controlling your use of energy.
Renewable Energy or Green Energy
No Need for Physical Installations
When most people think of buying renewable energy from a competitive energy supplier, they often imagine having to install new equipment or make physical changes to their property. In fact, when you purchase renewable energy products, you are actually directing power produced from renewable sources to be delivered onto the grid based on your purchase.
Renewable Electricity Going Straight to My Home?
When you select a renewable energy product from a competitive energy supplier it does not mean that the physical properties of the electricity will be sent directly to your home. Instead, the renewable electricity is delivered onto the grid on your behalf. The benefits to the environment are identical, since you are lowering the carbon footprint by supporting the production of renewable electricity – energy that would have otherwise been produced by a fossil fuel-powered plant.
Definition of “Renewable Energy” Varies
Each state has its own guidelines and definitions for what constitutes renewable energy (i.e., which sources qualify as renewable), and the criteria for a product being sold by a competitive supplier to be marketed as a true “renewable energy” product. In many states, the law requires all suppliers to include a certain percentage of renewable energy in all of the electricity they sell. In those states, suppliers must typically offer more than this minimum required percentage in order to market a product as renewable. Be sure to check with your supplier, and consult the state’s public utility commission website for more details.
Green is Good – Just Know What You’re Getting
Renewable energy, or “green” offers from competitive energy suppliers, are options to consider when shopping for the plan that best meets your energy needs. It may cost more than power generated from traditional sources (oil, natural gas, and coal), but an ever-growing number of consumers are electing to pay a different price for environmentally friendly power.
As competitive energy suppliers continue to find innovative ways to help you control your energy bill, consumers have the opportunity to select from an increasing number of options in order to find the best offer that meets your specific energy needs. Below are additional environmentally friendly products that can help you control your use of energy, increase equipment efficiency, and do your part to help the environment.
Energy Audits – identify where you can save on your energy consumption
Certain suppliers may offer energy audits, which can help customers learn how to make their home or businesses more energy efficient and less wasteful. Auditors will examine your property for inefficient appliances, insufficient insulation, cracks or gaps that allow energy leakage, and other problems. The auditor will make recommendations on products and services that can improve your home or business energy usage, potentially reducing your monthly bill.
Home Protection – insure your HVAC equipment
Competitive energy suppliers can also offer homeowners protection plans that cover inside and outside utility lines, HVAC systems, water heater and more. When a covered utility line or system fails, suppliers can take care of the repair for you. This can range from parts replacement to full 24-hour emergency service.
Carbon Offsets – reduce your greenhouse gas footprint
Competitive energy suppliers can purchase carbon offsets on your behalf to reduce the impact of the carbon emissions caused by your home natural gas consumption.
Demand Response – incentives to reduce your energy use
Demand response is when a customer is paid or receives a discount or incentive for lowering his or her electricity usage at certain times of day or when requested by the energy supplier or utility. This can be offered by suppliers via different product offerings, such as, for example, some suppliers may even offer energy for free if it is used at certain times of the day or week. As a result, customers with advanced meters on such plans can change their usage behavior by shifting high-energy activities (washing clothes, running the dishwasher) to times of day when the overall demand for electricity is lower.
Distributed Generation – generate your own power
Competitive energy suppliers can also offer distributed generation installation, located on or near your property. This can be in the form of installing solar panels, a combined heat and power unit (CHP), or other renewable energy systems. Consumers can generate their own energy to power, heat, and cool their home or business while continuing to receive electricity and natural gas from their competitive energy supplier as backup power. In most states and utility territories, you can receive credit on your energy bill for any surplus-generated electricity from your solar panel or CHP unit, this is known as net metering (see below for more information).
Have more questions about renewable energy? Here is some more info…
Net metering is used when a homeowner or business owner produces some of his or her own energy. Net metering uses an advanced physical meter that runs in both directions to track the net usage of power. If that owner produces more energy than he or she uses, that energy can be sold back to the grid, resulting in a bill credit.
Renewable Energy Credits
When a renewable energy source produces renewable energy, it generates a renewable energy certificate (REC). The producer of the energy can then sell not only the physical electricity, but also the renewable energy certificate. Competitive energy suppliers, generators and utilities must follow strict guidelines when creating, purchasing, selling, or retiring RECs.