HEC Promotes Renewable Energy Credits

Posted: December 8, 2012

HARRISONBURG — The Harrisonburg Electric Commission has placed inserts into customers’ bills this month promoting its new renewable energy certificate program.

General Manager Brian O’Dell said 22 people signed up after the program was initially advertised this summer. The company, which serves more than 20,000 customers in the city limits, is seeking wider participation.

“I think we have more in this area [interested] than you would find in most areas,” O’Dell said.

The certificates, also known as credits, can be purchased for as little as $2. HEC does not benefit financially when customers enroll in the program.

Instead, HEC uses the money to purchase credits from 3Degrees Group Inc., a San Francisco-based renewable energy provider. The credits come from wind and biomass sources.

Biomass is plant material, vegetation or agricultural waste used as a potential energy source.

Renewable energy facilities generate credits when they produce electricity. Distribution companies such as HEC can buy that power and have it certified as green energy into the power grid.

The benefit for the company and consumer is that it lessens the reliance on fossil fuels such as coal and natural gas, officials say. Each megawatt of renewable electricity reduces the need for a megawatt of conventional energy.

A credit is created for every 1,000 kilowatt-hours of renewable electricity that is generated and delivered to the grid, according to HEC. The average area household uses about 1,000 kilowatt-hours of energy a month.

Every $6.50 contributed to HEC’s program will add a 1,000-kilowatt-hour block of renewable energy to the power grid.

Because of the nature of how electrons flow and how the power grid is interconnected, it is impossible to determine what kinds of energy generation goes to an individual home or business.

The credits, however, certify that the renewable energy is included in the grid.

“RECs therefore provide …  a mechanism to keep the legal title to the environmental benefits of renewable energy distinct from the flow of electrons,” 3Degress says on its website.

SVEC Offers Same

The Shenandoah Valley Electric Cooperative, which has about 89,000 members from Winchester to Stuarts Draft, has 12 people in its renewable energy credit program, spokesman Mike Aulgur said.

It costs the cooperative 1.5 cents per kilowatt-hour to purchase the credits from its energy supplier. SVEC then passes on that cost to members who enroll in its program.

That means for every 1,000 kilowatt-hours used, a member pays an additional $15.

“Our perspective is we should take an all-of-the-above approach to energy and its production,” Aulgur said.

About 15,000 residential and business customers are enrolled in Dominion Virginia Power’s renewable energy program, called Green Power. The company serves about 23,000 customers in Rockingham County, but it was unclear how many are enrolled in the renewable energy program.

For more information on HEC’s initiative, call 434-5361.

Contact Preston Knight at 574-6272 or pknight@dnronline.com

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