For a few years now, all Minnesota residents and businesses have had the opportunity to buy green power through their electric utility. What exactly does it mean to buy green power? Basically, what it means is that you, the utility customer, agree to pay an extra amount each month on your electric bill (it can be as little as $1.50 to $2.00 a month) and that money will go towards developing additional renewable sources of electricity, such as wind or solar power. It does not mean that the electricity that your home or business uses will come specifically from wind or solar resources — no electric utility is able to “direct” the electricity they generate or buy in such a fashion. Instead, what you are doing is increasing the total amount of electricity from renewable sources that is available in Minnesota.
Some consumers have criticized green power programs by saying that customers should not have to pay extra for this and that government should either mandate green power development or the utilities should just invest in green power because it’s the right thing to do. While there’s little to disagree with in either of those positions, the political realities we face today are such that neither of those are likely to happen. So participating in green power programs is pretty much the opportunity we are given. We can take advantage of it and help take action to demonstrate the importance for green power, or we can just continue to talk about how great it would be for us to have more green power resources.
However, if you don’t like your electric utility’s program, another option available is to purchase renewable energy certificates (REC). The money you pay for RECs also goes towards renewable energy projects, but they are sold by separate marketers or brokers rather than by electric utilities and you can choose to invest specifically in wind or solar or other renewable electricity resources.