Buying Clean Electricity

The electricity industry is changing. At least 50% of customers have the option to purchase renewable electricity directly from their power supplier, and all customers have the option of purchasing renewable energy certificates. Such power is sometimes referred to as "green power" or "clean power."

In most states, you can buy clean power through one or more of the following:

A photo at sunset of tall electricity transmission towers connected for miles by transmission wires. Clean power is transmitted by the electricity grid, just like electricity from other power plants. Photo credit: Warren Gretz.

A photo at sunset of tall electricity transmission towers connected for miles by transmission wires. Clean power is transmitted by the electricity grid, just like electricity from other power plants. Photo by Warren Gretz.

Green Pricing Programs

Some power companies provide an optional service, called green pricing, that allows customers to pay a small premium in exchange for electricity generated from clean, renewable ("green") energy sources. The premium covers the increased costs incurred by the power provider (i.e., electric utility) when adding renewable energy to its power generation mix.

Competitive electricity markets

In some parts of the country, consumers can choose not only how their electricity is generated, but also who generates it.

Just as the long-distance telephone industry was restructured, certain states have restructured their electricity industry in order to allow competition among electricity generators. In some of these states, clean power generators, who specialize in producing electricity using renewable sources, are taking advantage of the restructured market to sell clean power products to residential, commercial, and wholesale customers. Some default suppliers are also teaming with these competitive marketers to offer more green power options.

Efforts to sell clean power are aimed at consumers who will choose to pay slightly more for renewable energy products and services that reflect their environmental values. The small premium you pay offsets the additional costs power companies incur in purchasing and/or generating electricity from renewable sources.

Green certificates

Buying green certificates allows you to contribute to the generation of clean, renewable power even if you can't buy clean power from your power provider (i.e., electric utility) or from a clean power generator on the competitive market.

An increasing number of clean power generators are now separating the power that they sell to power providers from the environmental attributes associated with that power. These environmental attributes, called green certificates (also known as "green tags," "renewable energy certificates," or "tradable renewable certificates"), are then sold to companies and individuals who want to help increase the amount of clean power entering our nation's electricity supply.

By separating the environmental attributes from the power, clean power generators are able to sell the electricity they produce to power providers at a competitive market value. The additional revenue generated by the sale of the green certificates covers the above-market costs associated with producing power made from renewable energy sources. This extra revenue also encourages the development of additional renewable energy projects.

Several organizations offer green energy or renewable energy certificates that can be purchased separate from your current electricity service.

Large-scale renewable energy power technologies

Renewable energy technologies are used to generate electricity on a large scale for residential, commercial, and wholesale customers. You may find that you can purchase clean electricity generated from one or more of these technologies through a green pricing program, competitive electricity markets, or green certificates offered in your area.

Biomass

Biomass electrical generation or biopower is second only to hydropower as a renewable energy source.

Click to read more about Biomass Energy or Biopower

Concentrating Solar Power

Concentrating Solar Power's (CSP) relatively low cost and ability to deliver power during periods of peak demand—when and where we need it—means it can be a major contributor to the nation's future needs for distributed sources of energy. Large-scale concentrating solar power technologies include parabolic troughs and power towers.

Click to read more about Concentrating Solar Power

Geothermal Power

In the United States, geothermal energy has been used to generate electricity on a large-scale since 1960. Through research and development, geothermal power is becoming more cost effective and competitive with fossil fuels.

Click to read more about Geothermal Power

Hydropower or Hydroelectric Power

Hydropower is currently the largest and least expensive source of renewable electricity produced in the United States. Large and small-scale hydropower projects are most commonly used by clean-power generators to produce electricity.

Click to read more about Hydropower or Hydroelectric Power

Photovoltaics (Solar)

Solar cells, also called photovoltaics (PV) by solar cell scientists, have been used economically to power everything from watches and calculators to individual homes where it is expensive or impossible to send electricity through power lines. As consumers become more interested in this technology, an increasing number of power companies are now experimenting with using PV to meet some of their power needs.

Click to read more about Photovoltaics (Solar Power)

Wind Power

To meet the electricity needs of a power company, a number of large wind turbines (50 kilowatts up to 2 megawatts) can be built close together to form a wind plant. Several power providers today use wind plants to supply power to their customers.

Click to read more about Wind Power

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