If you have ever considered signing up for the Green Power Option offered by Indianapolis Power & Light Company (IPL), now might be the time. Recently the cost of participation, which can change every six months depending on market prices, has dropped markedly. The current green premium is only $0.001 per kilowatt-hour (one-tenth of a cent) and is obtained from renewable energy purchased from Midwestern wind farms. At this premium, a typical residential customer using 1,000 kilowatt-hours in a month and enrolled at the 100 percent level would pay only $1 additional on his or her IPL electric bill. (Editor’s note: a potential overall rate change in August may slightly impact this total.)
Glenn Livers, the program’s manager, indicated that around 4,300 residential customers are currently enrolled. Participation has increased a little every year over the 13-year history of the program, and enrolled customers tend to remain loyal. However, this figure equates to less than one percent of IPL’s 470,000 customers.
A national report on consumer attitudes towards renewable energy concluded that only one in six consumers is aware of green power programs offered by their utility. More than 850 utility companies across the U.S. offer these voluntary programs to their customers. Last October’s report by the Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) ranked the IPL option as No. 1 for offering the lowest incremental cost to its customers.
It’s a paradox that IPL offers the cheapest program yet ranks low in participation. NREL ranked utilities nationwide by the percentage of customer participation. The top utilities were City of Palo Alto Utilities (California), with more than 20 percent of its customers participating in its green power program; followed by Portland General Electric (Oregon); Farmers Electric Cooperative of Kalona (Iowa); Madison Gas and Electric Company (Wisconsin); and the Sacramento Municipal Utility District (California).
Businesses can also participate in the program, and since they are the larger consumers of power, their enrollment takes on a greater environmental effect. IPL cannot reveal customer-specific information on the top participants in the program, but its “thank-you” ad printed in The Indianapolis Star identified 45 users willing to be published, including many large businesses (Raytheon Technical Services, RCI and FedEx Office), institutions (the Indianapolis Zoo, Butler University and the Indianapolis Museum of Art), and churches (First Congregation UCC and the Unitarian Universalist).
The program is based on the purchase of Renewable Energy Certificates (RECs, pronounced ‘wrecks’). Consumers are not buying green electricity that is being delivered straight from the source to their home. They are enabling the purchase of certificates for alternative energy that is going into the electric grid, reducing the need for energy from fossil fuel sources like coal, oil and natural gas. RECs are registered commodities and are equal to one megawatt hour of electricity generated from a renewable facility. They are purchased separately from the actual energy, which has its own value.
In case you think there could be misrepresentation involved in this process, a program called Green-e, headed up by the non-profit Center for Resource Solutions in California, runs an annual independent audit and makes sure that all of its subscribers’ statements are independently verified. IPL has been participating in this program for two years, giving its consumers the assurance that each megawatt hour of green power is tracked through the national system.
Five years ago IPL’s main sources of RECs were from “national wind” — power primarily generated in Texas — and methane from Indiana landfills. The Green-e program dictates that the power be obtained from a more local footprint. Now IPL buys 100 percent of its green power from wind-generated sources in the Midwest (a region that extends to the Dakotas, Nebraska, Iowa, Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan, as well as the Indiana wind farms).
Currently IPL has no plans to incorporate any Indiana-generated solar power in to the program. Unfortunately the long period necessary to recoup investment costs is hampering the development of solar sources, which Livers claims are both expensive and scarce.
Are these programs effective at encouraging the markets in alternative power? Or are they merely a voluntary tax on environmentally aware do-gooders? Signing up for the Green Power Option is an easy way to express public demand for green power and demonstrate to our state legislators that we want an alternative to burning coal.
In 2011 IPL’s green power customers’ purchases of renewable energy accounted for about 88,000 metric tons of avoided CO2 emissions, which is equivalent to taking more than 17,000 cars off the road for a year.
You can easily enroll online. You may participate at 100 percent, 50 percent and 25 percent.
Green Energy options throughout the state
Indianapolis Power & Light Co. – The Green Power Option
- 4,300 residential customers are currently enrolled.
- Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) ranked the IPL option as No. 1 for offering the lowest incremental cost to its customers.
- A typical customer using 1,000 kilowatt-hours in a month and enrolled at the 100 percent level would pay only $1 additionally.
- The current green premium is only $0.001 per kilowatt-hour (one-tenth of a cent).
- From renewable energy purchased from Midwestern wind farms.
- In 2011 IPL’s green power customers’ purchases of renewable energy accounted for about 88,000 metric tons of avoided CO2 emissions, which is equivalent to taking more than 17,000 cars off the road for a year.
- Homeowners may participate at 100 percent, 50 percent and 25 percent.
You can easily enroll online.
Duke Energy – GoGreen Indiana
- Customers can purchase a minimum of two 100-kilowatt-hour (kWh) blocks of green power for just $4 a month.
- Your 200-kWh commitment equates to about 20 percent of an average residential customer’s electricity use and helps to avoid 4,800 lbs of carbon dioxide emissions each year.
- As of the beginning of 2011, Indiana customers have supported over 19,576.6 MWH of Green-e certified wind power. Contributions currently support the Benton County wind farm in Indiana.
- Apply online at duke-energy.com/indiana.asp.
Northern Indiana Public Service Co. (NIPSCO) – The Green Power Rate pilot program
- Would allow customers to designate a portion or all of their monthly electric usage to be supplied from wind, solar, geothermal, biomass and hydroelectric renewable energy sources.
- An average customer using 688 kilowatts a month would pay $1.49 in addition to a monthly $78 electric bill if the 100 percent option is chosen.
- You can designate 25, 50 or 100 percent of your monthly electric usage to be attributable to power generated by renewable energy sources.
- This program still needs to be approved by the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission (IURC).
- More information here.
South Central Indiana REMC – Envirowatts
- Power for the program utilizes methane gas from Indiana landfills.
- Purchase options are for 100 kWh blocks at one cent per kilowatt hour (up to 1,000 kWh), added to your monthly electric bill.
- More information.
Many other areas in Indiana are powered by Rural Energy Management Cooperatives. Find out if your area has a green program available.
All five pieces of the Squandered Indiana series can be found here.