Myth #3 Green Power Plans are no better than basic electricity
This myth is based on a misunderstanding of what we are buying when we purchase a 100% renewable energy plan from our utility. The truth is, that when you buy a green energy plan, your dollars are guaranteed to purchase the generation of 100% renewable energy for the amount of energy you consume. This means that your dollars are paying for clean energy to be supplied to the grid, and your money is going to the clean energy industry instead of the fossil fuels industry.
The electric grid is one big interconnected system with multiple inputs from the numerous generation sources and millions of outputs such as our own households. It is true that due to this interconnection, we can never be sure where the electricity that we use in our homes was actually generated. This causes some people to be skeptical that paying a little bit more for a 100% Renewable plan is actually better.
The way to understand why this is a myth is to think about your electric bill as paying for electricity generation. When you pay for a green energy plan you are guaranteed that the electricity that was generated with your dollars is 100% renewable. If you don't do that, then you are leaving the decision up to someone else about how the energy is generated and added to the grid to satisfy your electricity use.
A useful analogy for our electric system is to think of the grid as a giant lake that we all take water from. To keep the lake full, our utilities continually refill the lake with new sources of water. Their job is to keep the lake full so that we all have the water we need. When you buy a green energy plan, you are compelling the utilities to refill the lake with 100% clean water for your share. Of course, your share will be mixed in with all the other water so what you take out is a mixture of all the inputs. In this way it is easier to see how powerful it is when we consumers take this action. The more people sign up for green plans, the cleaner the lake will be. If we all signed up for green plans it would force the utilities to create more clean energy and the lake would get cleaner and cleaner.
The Green Source plan from PGE in Oregon for example guarantees that your dollars are spent by purchasing 100% renewable energy from these sources.
The tool used to ensure that the power generated with your dollars is renewable is called the Renewable Energy Credit. It is basically a certificate that is produced for each kilowatt of renewable energy generated. When you buy green energy you buy those RECs to guarantee that your amount of clean energy was produced and put into the grid.
Here is a short video that describes RECS.
So, buying a Green Power Plan guarantees that your share of electricity will be generated with 100% renewable energy and it is an essential action to making the grid cleaner and cleaner.