The Watertown Electricity Choice program is being designed so that it increases the amount of renewable energy in the community’s electricity supply.
By replacing the burning of fossil fuels with the use of renewable energy resources such as solar and wind energy, the Town is working to:
- Improve local air quality. Energy generated from renewable sources, such as the sun and wind, does not create the greenhouse gases that cause climate change and does not pollute the air.
- Encourage the development of additional renewable energy projects.The Town has prioritized buying renewable energy from New England-based renewable energy projects. By creating additional demand for the electricity generated by those projects, Watertown Electricity Choice is helping to stimulate the development of more local renewable energy projects.
- Support local businesses and local jobs. Purchasing renewable energy from New England-based projects means supporting New England-based businesses and the jobs they provide to local communities.
What it means to buy renewable energy
Unless you have a renewable energy system, such as solar panels, plugged directly into your home or office, you cannot purchase the specific electricity that is generated by a renewable energy project. The electricity flowing through the grid is a mix, and it includes electricity generated by renewable energy projects as well as those generated by fossil fuels, such as coal, oil, and gas, and other resources such as nuclear. The individual sources cannot be separated out at the level of the grid.
As a result, a separate system has been created to keep track of renewable energy and to allow it to be bought and sold. That system uses renewable energy certificates, or RECs. Every time a renewable energy project generates 1 megawatt-hour of electricity, 1 REC is minted. That REC can then be sold. Purchasing a REC gives you, and no one else, the right to say you used the electricity from that renewable energy project.
Anyone who wishes to purchase renewable electricity, must then purchase 2 things: they must purchase the electricity itself from the grid, and then they must also purchase RECs that equal the amount of electricity they use. (These two costs are often bundled together, and they are why renewable energy costs a bit more.) Whoever buys RECs has the right to say they used the electricity generated by the associated renewable energy projects. Those RECs are then retired so that they cannot be purchased by anyone else, and no one else can claim to have used that electricity.
Watertown Electricity Choice will purchase RECs in order to integrate an increased amount of renewable energy into the Town’s electricity supply. No one else will be able to claim the energy associated with the RECs that Watertown buys.
The minimum amount of renewable electricity required by state law
Massachusetts state law requires that all electricity sold in the state must include a minimum amount of electricity generated by renewable sources and also by alternative, highly efficient sources that are not considered renewable. These requirements are known as the Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) and the Alternative Portfolio Standard (APS). The required amounts increase a little every year.
For 2019, Massachusetts requires a minimum of 14% from newer New England-based renewable energy projects, and additional renewable energy from other types of renewable energy projects as well as alternative energy sources. (You can download a spreadsheet with the specific required amounts from the Massachusetts DOER.)
The Watertown Electricity Choice program integrates additional renewable energy above the minimum required by the state.