Renewable energy, or green energy, is gaining a foothold outside of niche groups and is becoming a very viable and increasingly prevalent source of power for our electricity grid.
Various types of renewable energy are included in select electricity plans, but not every shopper knows what those sources are or what that means for them. Electricity customers have more choices than ever. Besides price and plan terms, they can also choose how much green power is coming down the wire.
It’s Easy To Go Green
Electricity customers in most deregulated states have the option to select 100% renewable energy plans from their energy provider. Additionally, several electricity providers give their customers the ability to convert their traditional electricity plans to 100% green plans for a small monthly fee. Many states also have renewable energy initiatives in place that require a certain percentage of all electricity generated be derived from renewable sources, called a Renewable Portfolio Standard or RPS. It’s a great thing for electricity customers and for the environment!
What is a Renewable Energy Certificate (REC)?
Electricity is currently created and delivered on demand. For example, when a wind farm in West Texas generates electricity on a windy day, that electricity is delivered to the grid real time regardless of the demand for electricity at that moment.
A Renewable Energy Certificate (REC) is created that corresponds to every 1MWh (1000 kWh) of power generated from that green power facility. This certificate is sold to electricity providers separately from the power generated, making it a financial instrument.
RECs are basically the currency of green energy. Electricity providers, utility companies, or anyone wanting (or needing) to reduce their carbon footprint purchase RECs. These certificates support the success and further development of renewable energy facilities and help them compete with lower-priced fossil fuel electric generation plants.
How Does Renewable Energy Actually Get to My Home or Business?
So, what happens when you select a 100% green electricity plan? Your electricity provider has purchased RECs and, as you use electricity, your provider tracks your kWh usage and redeems the RECs to offset your usage. That’s essentially how you get renewable energy ‘delivered’ to your home or business.
Some electricity plans support local solar installations, but this is not as common. Community solar is one way to ensure that you are supporting renewable energy directly in your community. Under community solar, you would subscribe to the local solar farm for a portion of your electricity. These programs typically come with a credit on your electricity bill.
What are the Types of Green Energy?
Renewable energy has grown way beyond solar panels and wind farms, though those are certainly vital to creating green electricity for the power grid.
There are lots of different ways that renewable energy generation facilities create all the sparks we need for daily life. These are the sources that are most likely to be included in a green energy plan:
- Solar. There’s nothing that affects our planet as much as the sun. This awe-inspiring star has given rise to a number of technologies that are designed to capture the energy that falls to Earth using photo-voltaic cells, solar sheeting and solar collectors.
- Wind. Using turbines that spin as the wind picks up, electricity companies are able to capture the power of wind and convert it to electricity. It neither slows the winds down, nor does it create any sort of pollution. Wind is clean and aside from the visual impact of wind farms, has no major negative features. Wind farms must be placed in areas where the winds are strong enough to turn the turbines more often than not, though, or they won’t produce enough electricity to be useful.
- Hydroelectric. Like with wind, hydroelectric forces moving water through turbines to help create electricity. You’ll often see hydroelectric associated with dams. It’s a natural marriage of huge bodies of moving water and a sturdy place to mount lots of equipment. Protections are in place to ensure the safety of fish swimming in the same streams. These protections include fish passages and ladder devices to help migrating animals continue on their way unhindered.
- Bioenergy. Fuels like biodiesel and bioethanol can be burned to create a cleaner-running electricity plant, in contrast to the polluting coal plants that are still in use across the country. A variety of plant and animal matter is extracted or otherwise manipulated to create electricity in special facilities whose goal is to be a zero carbon-emission electricity source. This is still a rapidly advancing area for electricity generation. Exciting changes are happening all the time!
- Geothermal. Utilizing the power of the Earth itself, geothermal turbines can turn heat rising from magma conduits, hot springs and other hydrothermal sources into electricity. Geothermal generation can be done safely and often quite cheaply, depending on the station’s location. Countries like El Salvador, Kenya, the Philippines, Iceland and Costa Rica are already generating more than 15 percent of their electricity from geothermal sources.
- Tidal. Wind, hydroelectric, geothermal and tidal electricity have one thing in common: turbines. These ever-spinning devices can take advantage of the tides to generate power as ocean water ebbs and flows. Facilities have been in operation since 1966, but the first grid-connected tidal power plant didn’t go online until 2015. It’s another emerging green technology to watch.
Hydropower and wind make up the majority of renewable energy delivered to the grid each year, but solar is growing. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, in 2018 renewable energy sources accounted for 17% of electricity generation. That’s up from just 13% renewable in 2015. This percentage is expected to continue to grow particularly with respect to wind energy generation.
What Percentage of Generation is Green in Texas?
Texas has been a focal point for wind generation and more recently, for utility-scale solar installations. In 2019, 18% of Texas power was from renewable resources. Renewable energy resources are expected to grow in 2019, generating 25% of Texas power needs between wind and solar resources. The chart below shows projected 2019 generation by source in Texas.
Power must be consumed when it’s generated, which has made wind resources less dependable and curtailed production. Investment in transmission lines have helped reduce that issue. Utility scale batteries have dropped in price in the last 2 years, and will play an increasing role in helping Texas tap into these renewable resources. Batteries can store the power as it’s generated, then release it to the grid when supply is low.
Why Go Green?
Not only does green energy help fight global warming, it’s also a great way to help break our country’s dependency on limited resources like oil and coal. Expanding existing and creating new green power facilities can also guarantee a stable and reliable renewable energy source for all Americans.
Green energy can be surprisingly affordable. Search for renewable energy plans available in your area at ElectricityPlans.com. There’s no reason not to consider a renewable energy electricity plan. You’ll be surprised how easy it is to go green.