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Green power choices: RECs or my local utility’s program?

LA DWPA TerraPass customer writes in with the following question: should he buy his green power from the Renewable Choice Energy program offered at Whole Foods, or from his local utility, the City of Los Angeles Department of Water & Power?

Mike wants to shift to green power for his home. We don’t have the specifics of his electricity use, but let’s assume he consumes about 6300 kWh of electricity a year, the average for a California home. This equates to a carbon impact of about 5,000 lbs per year, or about the same as driving a Prius.

When we crunched the math (spreadsheet here), we were pretty shocked at the difference in prices. LAWPD sells at $4.37 per MWh, Renewable Choice at $20 per MWh. To put these numbers in terms of carbon dioxide emissions, LAWPD sells at $12 per metric ton and Renewable Choice at a much steeper $31 per metric ton. TerraPasses sell at about $9 per metric ton.

But there is more to green power than just price. Let’s look more carefully at the issue.

What is being bought? Both providers source from 100% wind energy. LAWPD buys from local California sources; Renewable Choice from wind farms in North Dakota and Colorado. There is a slight difference on the carbon claim one can make from each resources, but the real difference here is that Renewable Choices invests in the costs associated with being a Green-e certified marketer. That means claims they make about their green power being new and above RPS requirements are independently certified by a non-interested party. LADWP makes the same claims in their annual report, but no one is watching over them.

Of course, the folks at LADWP are well-intentioned, and even with a fab $50 Whole Foods card that comes with your purchase, you’re still looking at shelling out an additional $100. Still, we’d pick quality ahead of price, and support Renewable Choice.

Of course, in the shameless plug department, you can have the same CO2 impact, and achieve both certification and verification, by simply buying another Hybrid TerraPass.

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