Green Power and Renewable Energy Certificates. BUEC 560 Prof Joseph Doucet

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1 Green Power and Renewable Energy Certificates BUEC 560 Prof Joseph Doucet Prepared by: Cheng-Hsin Chang 28 February 2005

2 Executive Summary Green power and renewable energy certificates are emerging green markets for electricity generation. These markets are stimulated for development through the increasing awareness of the environment, greenhouse gas emissions and depleting fossil fuel reserves. Green power is defined as energy generated by low-impact renewable or sustainable sources resources that are replenished naturally and with minimal harm to the environment 1. Renewable energy certificates are the unbundled characteristics of green power, which specifically represent only the environmental attributes of the specific green power and not the electricity generated. Renewable energy certificates allow for the flexibility of transactions of green power without actually receiving electricity generated by green power, while green pricing specifically encompasses purchasing electricity generated from green power generation. These transactions allow for consumer support and development of future green power sources. These green markets are supported through government programs, which provide incentives for green power development in diversified utility portfolios and promote the growth of green markets. The government s role is essential in developing these markets, as green power is still relatively immature and uneconomical. Further, as these markets develop, it is necessary to continue to update accreditation, auditing and validation of all green power market transactions to ensure that consumer premiums are being directed to the actual development and advancement of green power for the future. ii

3 Table of Contents Executive Summary...ii Table of Contents...iii List of Figures...iii 1. Introduction Green Power and Certificates Government Participation Current Programs Conclusion...13 References...14 End Notes...16 List of Figures Figure 1 - How Green Power Marketing Works...3 Figure 2 - How Green Power Marketing Certificates Work...6 iii

4 1. Introduction As environmental concerns increase and Canada implements its strategy for achieving the Kyoto protocol goals in greenhouse gas reductions, the concepts of green power and renewable energy certificates are gaining popularity. Green power typically represents the generation of electricity through renewable energy resources. But as the technology for green power is still relatively immature, capital intensive and uneconomical compared to conventional coal and natural gas generation plants, or large hydro or nuclear plants, there is difficulty in developing green power markets. Based on these barriers, it is important to develop green power through establishing a clear definition of green power and green power markets (green pricing and renewable energy certificates), as well as developing proper government programs that offer incentives for developing green markets as well as promote generation portfolio diversity with more green power. Finally, it is important to continue to develop appropriate accreditation criteria for green power along with stringent auditing and validation of green market transactions. This paper will seek to clarify the definition of green power and renewable energy certificates as well as outline how these green market transactions are completed. It will also discuss the role of government programs in providing incentives and support for developing green power and green power markets. Existing green power programs across Canada will also be assessed to determine whether they provide clear insight to consumers on premium rates. 1

5 2. Green Power and Certificates The terms Green Power and Renewable Energy Certificates are commonly used, but few people understand what those terms really mean. It is important to define these terms and understand exactly what they mean before getting into the validity of green power programs and the trading of renewable energy certificates. In their marketing attempts to sell green power to consumers, green power and renewable energy certificates are commonly interchanged when discussed on the utilities market. A national survey conducted by Pollution Probe in 2004 clearly demonstrated the public s confusion. Only 16% of respondents said they thought the term Green Power referred to alternate energy or power sources while 27% responded that they did not even know the term 2. Green power, or renewable energy or renewable low impact electricity, is generally described by one characteristic: the source of energy generation that is used for generating electricity. As defined by The Pembina Institute for Appropriate Development, Green power is energy generated by low-impact renewable or sustainable sources resources that are replenished naturally and with minimal harm to the environment. 3 This definition may vary slightly in wording but it represents the accepted industry definition. Although some definitions will use the terms green power, renewable and environmentally preferable interchangeably, the key to the definition is that green power clearly refers to two concepts: the generation of electricity (the source for the generation) and the environmental qualities of the resources used. In general, green power refers to renewable resources such as solar, wind, geothermal, biomass and 2

6 small hydroelectric plants. But the common term Green is often misused. Thus, from green power come common utility programs called green power marketing, green pricing, green utility rates, or green tariffs. These programs are derived from actual green power generation, in which utility providers actually sell green power generated electricity through a premium price above conventional electricity supplies in order to cover the additional costs associated with green power generation. These programs actually allow specific customers to bare the costs for wanting green power (Figure 1). These programs are gaining popularity among major utilities and will be discussed further on. It is the confusion between actually purchasing green power compared to purchasing renewable energy certificates representing green power benefits, which requires further clarity. Figure 1 - How Green Power Marketing Works 4 3

7 Renewable Energy Certificates also referred to as green power certificates, green tags, green energy tags, Green-e, emission reduction certificates, emission reduction credit, emission credit, or tradeable renewable energy certificates, add a second dimension to the growing support for green power. The major difference is that renewable energy certificates can unbundle the environmental characteristics of green power. Since these certificates represent the environmental attributes of green power, they are separated from the actual electricity generated. Based on this concept, many utilities and independents are also now marketing these renewable energy certificates. This is definitely a prime source for the confusion in the definition of green power. These certificates are also becoming a new form of environmental commodity as they represent the benefits of reduced greenhouse gas emissions or low environmental impacts that are associated with green power (Figure 2). But this is clearly a separate product from green power as the consumer is paying for a certificate that represents environmental benefits of green power but not necessarily paying for green power itself. These certificates are often priced at the difference of the premiums between conventional power and green pricing, which would technically make both the purchase of certificates and green pricing essentially the same since certificate holders are still required to pay their conventional electricity bills. Green Pricing = Conventional Electricity Costs + Premium of Green Power Costs } Provided by one Utility (one bill) Total Pricing = Conventional Electricity Costs + Renewable Energy Certificate Costs } Provided by two institutions (two bills) 4

8 Since these certificate commodities have no tangible product associated with them, they are questionable in terms of validity for the consumer. The consumer is in fact paying for a form of goodwill that environmental benefits are resulting from the proceeds to these certificates. The disadvantages of the certificate are that this concept is very abstract for most traditional consumers and there is much concern over possible double counting for the environmental attributes that are being sold. It is necessary for the consumer to understand that the purchase of certificates ultimately go to the green power supplier and promotes the environmental benefits that the consumer wishes to support. The environmental attributes associated with these certificates should address the reduction of greenhouse gases, no additional generation of greenhouse gases, or low environmental impact of generation sites. The double counting issue requires proper auditing and review to ensure that certificates are associated with the divided environmental attributes are explicitly transfered to one customer. The advantages of the certificates are that they offer flexibility for green power supporters. Since green power is relatively new and not available in most markets, the certificates allow all supporters to promote green power without physically using electricity from green power generation. These certificates also allow for consumers to tailor their support and use of green power, instead of locking into paying for green pricing. 5

9 Figure 2 - How Green Power Marketing Certificates Work 5 It is this confusion that needs clarity, as much of the general public cannot discern the difference between buying green power and renewable energy certificates. This can lead to misunderstandings over advertising and corporate brand images. These private market initiatives can not be the only stimulation for green power development in the future. There is also a strong need for government policies to assist in the development of green power. Ultimately, there is a requirement to assure consumers of both green power and renewable energy certificates that their procedes are in fact going to the development and support of green power. 6

10 3. Government Participation As public concern grows for the environment and the implementation of the Kyoto protocol, it is imperative that the government also support the development of green power. In the United States, there is the Green Power Network, a national program established by the US Department of Energy Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, for connecting the nation on green power pricing and certificates through set standards. In Canada, the Federal Government has also made great strides in supporting green power. The Federal Government announced a goal of purchasing 20% green power starting in In fact, the Alberta Government has exceeded the federal standard through purchasing 90% green power for all of its public buildings in But the use of green power only answers half the question. The Federal Government has also committed to ensuring that 7% of all electricity generated in Canada be green power by 2010 (promoting portfolio diversification). These goals not only promote green power but they assist in addressing the ambiguity that may arise from the market of green power and certificate trading. Government initiatives are leading utilities to voluntarily adjust their own generation portfolios to include green power. It is this concept of increasing the green power within a utility portfolio that will demonstrate that proceeds from green pricing and certificates are going towards the positive development of green power. Many utilities are moving towards a diversified portfolio based on public pressures and on concern for the environment. It is difficult to say whether this move comes from a concern for corporate image or from a concern for 7

11 the future. In this day of corporate brand image and social responsibility, it is an inherent benefit for having a token green power initiative to demonstrate civic leadership, differentiate products and increase publicity and image for increased rates. One interesting example of this corporate flip-flopping is Epcor. Epcor had offered a green pricing package called the Green Power ECO-PACKs but has since removed this offer. There is no clear reason for the removal of the product, but Epcor has simply decided to maintain a portion of its portfolio in green power. One could hypothesize that demonstrating that green pricing premiums were actually used for further development of green power was far too difficult. The government also initiated support programs to aid in the development of green power. Most notably, a tax break was given under the Canadian Renewable and Conservation expenses, which allows for accelerated write-offs of expenditures on capital costs associated with capital intensive green power facilities. Another great financial aid for development is the Wind Power Production Incentive (WPPI). The program gives incentive payments for 10-years to wind power generation facilities that are 500 kw or over. The incentive payments begin at 1.2 cents per kwh, declining to 0.8 cents per kwh. Finally, the Market Incentive Program also gives financial assistance for the development of green power markets for residential and business consumers. The program provides short-term incentives of up to 40% of costs to increase and establish green power markets. These programs all assist in the promotion of green power. Through offering financial support, they allow for the economical development and add incentive for developing costly green power generation plants. But if further 8

12 development continues, the capital costs for such plants will begin to decline and become more competitive with conventional generation plants. The government also realized the need for certification and auditing. In 1988, the Environmental Choice Program was established to encourage the supply of products and services that are more environmentally responsible and to help organizations and consumers buy green. 6 This organization provides the third-party accreditation and verification of products that are environmentally responsible. Once products or services are deemed environmentally responsible and within the established criteria, they are given the EcoLogo M labelling. The Environmental Choice Program (ECP) provides the criteria for utilities to meet the Electricity Renewable Low-Impact designation (green power) through set government standards. Beyond the stringent criteria for qualification, the program also offers verification of products. Most notably, ECP clearly stipulates that the environmental benefits associated with the green power cannot be passed onto more than one customer. ECP agents inspect all the criteria and provide validation for quality assurance and control. These government initiatives all contribute to the positive development of green power. Financial incentives and national goals promote the natural diversification of generation portfolios for utilities beyond the premiums of green pricing or certificates. The establishment of third-party auditors also contribute to the legitimacy of green power and certificate trading programs. Nevertheless, it is still being demonstrated that the common consumer has little assurance as to the effectiveness of green power markets. 9

13 4. Current Programs There is definitely a positive trend of growing green power markets. Some programs are based on the green pricing concept for direct sales of green power, while the majority of programs are based on certificate trading. Green pricing programs are mostly operated by established utilities across Canada who has diversified their generation portfolio to provide green power. But there is little assurance that once premium prices are paid that they actually go to further capital investment of green power. Enmax offers a Greenmax program built on its McBride Lake Wind Farm at a premium of $6.25/month (50% support) or $12.50/month (100% support). But the program has no description of how a consumer s premium is supporting green power. Nova Scotia Power offers a similar program that sells green power (backed by NSPI wind farm) for $5.00 per 125 kwh. The program does state that premiums will contribute to displacing the initial capital investment on the wind farm and furthering the development of renewable energy in the province. Toronto Hydro offers green power pricing through an independent third party called Citysource Green Power. For an additional $5.00/month added to Toronto Hydro s bill, it will be reinvested into the Toronto Renewable Energy Cooperative (TREC). The TREC operates wind generators along the Toronto waterfront and is planning on a second turbine at Ashbridges Bay. Maritime Electric Green Power operates a green power program that allows customers to buy green power based on PEI North Cape wind farm, in which the premiums are used for the operation of the wind farms. Sask Power also offers a green power program at an additional $2.50 per 100 kwh blocks, with proceeds going towards operating its 33 wind turbines. These are just 10

14 some of the pure green pricing programs across the country. All these programs offer similar deals but they are also very vague as to how the premiums actually promote future green power initiatives. Most of these programs claim that premiums help reduce operating costs and recuperate capital costs. The consumer should not overlook this concept since utilities could not charge premiums for recuperation of conventional generation plants. In light of these issues with green pricing, most of the current green power programs are based on the trade of renewable energy certificates by third parties. With proper governance and auditing, these certificates actually offer more support for green power since the majority of the proceeds go directly to the green power producers and operators versus the large utilities. Vision Quest Wind offers certificates for sale through two independents: Greenmax (Enmax) and the Pembina Institute for Appropriate Development. The certificates are also certified by another independent, Green Leaf, and the majority of the proceeds go directly back to Vision Quest for operations and development. CanHydro also sell renewable energy certificates for the promotion of green power. There is very vague information about where and to whom the proceeds go to support green power. BC Hydro also offers certificates to businesses. Once again, the benefits are not clearly defined as the company claims the revenue is generated for supporting the development of new green electricity in B.C. The Ontario Green Tags program also sells certificates for the support of green power. The proceeds support Sky Generation s Ferndale wind turbine along with another program by Selectwind. These are some of the certificate programs available across Canada. Similar to the green 11

15 pricing, these certificate programs often lack information on exactly how the revenues contribute to the future of green power development. There is no doubt that these programs are good signs for the future and that there is growing support for the development and use of green power. But the lack of clarity on how the funds are being used and how the consumer is exactly promoting green power is still unsettling. 12

16 5. Conclusion As we learn more about the environment and sustainable development, green power will become a major part of our lives. Green power is definitely a positive direction considering the future electricity needs of society. However, we are now struggling with how best to promote and develop more green power in a conventionally fossil fuel driven utility market. Further education and definition are necessary for the advancement of green power. The initiatives involving green power pricing and renewable energy certificates are the first steps towards further development of green power. The definition of green power must encompass both renewable resource technology and the environmental attributes of renewable energy. Further support from the government must be maintained to ensure that positive goals and programs are set to provide incentive for both a green power market and green power portfolios. There is a need for both generating a market for green power and furthering capital investment to ensure that green power is the future and not just a corporate brand imaging tool. Until we achieve a competitive economical state for green power there still needs to be strict auditing and validation of green power pricing and renewable energy certificates to ensure that consumers are getting what they pay for and actually supporting the development of green power for the future. 13

17 References 1. Whitmore, J.; Bramley, M.(Sep 2004), Green Power Programs Canada 2003, Pembina Institute for Appropriate Development website. Internet: 2. Bramley, M., Boustie, S., Vadgama, J., Wieler, C. and Pape-Salmon, A., (Nov 2002), Green Power Programs Canada 2003, Pembina Institute for Appropriate Development website. Internet: 3. Dogterom, J.J., McCulloch, M., Pape-Salmon, A. (Dec 2002), Green Power Marketing in Canada: The State of the Industry, Pembina Institute for Appropriate Development website. Internet: 4. Raynolds, M., Pape-Salmon, A. (Jul 2002), Pembina Institute Green Power Guidelines for Canada, Pembina Institute for Appropriate Development website. Internet: 5. Guide to Purchasing Green Power: Renewable Electricity, Tradable Renewable Certificates and On-Site Renewable Generation (2004), Safe Climate for Business website. Internet: 6. A Green Power Vision and Strategy for Canada (2004), Pollution Probe website. Internet: 7. Environmental Choice Program website. Internet: D=28&fkMainPage=0. 8. Certification Criteria Document: Electricity Renewable Low-Impact (Dec 2003), Environmental Choice Program website. Internet: %20December% _5.pdf. 9. Green Power, Pollution Probe website. Internet: Ensuring Green Power Supplies in Ontario, Canadian Institute For Environmental Law and Policy website. Internet: Clean Electricity Choices for Consumers, EnviroZine website. Internet: Renewable Energy/ Green Power, The Clean Air Partnership website. Internet: Primer on the Technologies of Renewable Energy (2003), Pollution Probe website. Internet: Green Power Sales, Canadian Hydro website. Internet: Renewable Electricity Certification Program, Green-e website. Internet: Green Power Suppliers, Electricity Choices website. Internet: 14

18 17. Green Power Certificates, Invest Green website. Internet: Environmental Defence website. Internet: Green Power Network, US Department of Energy Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy website. Internet: EnVest Renewable Energy, Epcor website. Internet: Green Tags, Bonneville Environmental Foundation website. Internet: Green Power, BR Hydro website. Internet: RECertificates, EAD Environmental website. Internet: Green Tags Ontario website. Internet: Select Power website. Internet: Green Power, Ontario Power Generation website. Internet: Green Power, Energy Ottawa website. Internet: mplate_id=142&lang=e. 28. Renewable and Electrical Energy, Natural Resources Canada website. Internet: Introducing Green Power, Nova Scotia Power website. Internet: Buy Green Power Now, Toronto Environment website. Internet: Renewable and Green Power, Toronto Hydro website. Internet: Renewable and Green Energy, Northland Power Inc website. Internet: The Quest for a Cleaner Future, Vision Quest TransAlta s Wind Business website. Internet: 15

19 End Notes 1 Green Power, Pembina Institute for Appropriate Development website. Internet: 2 Green Power Poll National Survey (Oct 2004), Green Power Pollution Probe website. Internet: Pg Green Power, Pembina Institute for Appropriate Development website. Internet: 4 Bramley, M., Boustie, S., Vadgama, J., Wieler, C. and Pape-Salmon, A., (Nov 2002), Green Power Programs Canada 2003, Pembina Institute for Appropriate Development website. Internet: Pg Bramley, M., Boustie, S., Vadgama, J., Wieler, C. and Pape-Salmon, A., (Nov 2002), Green Power Programs Canada 2003, Pembina Institute for Appropriate Development website. Internet: Pg Environmental Choice Program website. Internet: 8&fkMainPage=0. 16

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