Frequently Asked Questions for Proposed Green Option
The characteristics of the proposed Green Option, as described below, reflect PG&E’s application to the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC). The program design is subject to change and approval by
Renewable Energy and RECs
PG&E will be providing renewable energy certificates (RECs), which represent proof that a specific quantity of electricity was generated from an eligible renewable energy resource such as wind or solar. Companies that generate renewable energy earn these credits for each megawatt-hour they produce. The sale of these certificates financially encourages renewable energy producers to build more renewable facilities. Download this report for more information on voluntary renewable energy certificates.
PG&E will buy RECs to supplement the eligible renewable energy PG&E already provides to its customers. PG&E will take steps to certify all purchases for the Green Option through Green-e Energy, a program of the non-profit Center for Resource Solutions, based in San Francisco, CA. Green-e Energy is the leading certifier of voluntary renewable energy in the United States. Green-e Energy provides assurances to consumers and businesses that they are procuring certified renewable energy credits for their electricity use. The sellers of Green-e Energy certified renewable energy are reviewed twice a year to ensure that they live up to their claims. The renewable energy that Green-e Energy certifies is audited annually to ensure that it is:
- From an eligible resource – such as solar, wind, geothermal, biomass, or “low impact” hydropower.
- From an eligible project beginning operation or repowered after the date indicated in the governing standard.
- Not double-counted – certified renewable energy sold to a consumer cannot also be counted by a utility toward a state’s renewable energy goal or RPS. Renewable energy must only be attributed to the individual customer purchasing it.
For more information on the Green-e Energy national standard download this report.
Renewable energy consists of electricity bundled with the attribute or proof that it was generated by an eligible renewable energy resource. That attribute or proof is called a REC, which can be bought and sold separately from the underlying power. Voluntary green pricing programs typically provide their customers with the opportunity to support green energy by matching their customers’ electricity use with RECs. That’s because customers are not increasing their demand for electricity when they participate in a voluntary green pricing program; they are increasing the demand for more renewables, which can be provided in the form of RECs.
The application we filed with the CPUC proposes that the renewable energy credits for this program will be generated in California and from the western states more broadly, those within the “Western Electricity Coordinating Council.”
PG&E will not directly procure RECs for the Green Option. PG&E will work with a third party to procure Green-e Energy certified RECs. Customers who produce renewable energy may wish to consult with an aggregator or purchaser of Green-e Energy certified RECs. Separate from the Green Option, PG&E has programs for small renewable energy producers under which they can sell renewable energy to PG&E under a standard contract. For more information, please see the Standard Contracts for Purchase (Feed-in Tariffs).
RECs are not carbon offsets, but participation in the program does allow customers to have their enrolled energy be considered GHG-free. We can provide you, the customer, with adjusted GHG emission factors for the energy you enroll, and you may report this in your voluntary climate action plan. However, PG&E generally cannot claim these customer purchases for its own mandatory reporting requirements.
Cost and Availability
PG&E will work to keep its price as low as possible for customers and the pricing should certainly be in line with other programs around the nation. We anticipate that the program will cost the average residential customer about $6 a month—the cost of three or four cups of coffee.
Nothing. All costs will be borne only by customers who volunteer to enroll in the program.
Very similar. Over 860 utilities in the United States offer voluntary renewable energy options. Many of these programs offer customers an option to pay a small surcharge to support 100% green power or blocks of green power. The national median price is about 1.5 cents per kWh.
PG&E is proposing no minimum enrollment term. Customers can join or leave as they wish.
PG&E is asking the CPUC to approve the program by early 2013. We anticipate the program will launch within a few months of CPUC approval.
This program provides an opportunity to support renewable power beyond the portion of PG&E’s electricity mix that is supplied by sources that count toward California’s Renewable Portfolio Standard. The amount charged to customers is therefore based on the profile of PG&E’s electricity and thus is only relevant to customers who buy electricity from PG&E.
PG&E and the Green Option
Will this program impact PG&E’s Renewables Portfolio Standard (RPS) procurement and compliance obligations?
No. This program is completely separate and will not be used in any way to meet PG&E’s RPS obligations. All aspects of the voluntary Green Option will be managed separately from PG&E’s ongoing RPS compliance program.
No. PG&E is responding to the stated desire of many customers for more renewable energy options, and is implementing the best practices of over 860 utilities around the nation that offer such programs. PG&E is offering the Green Option to all bundled electricity customers throughout its service area, regardless of whether they also have the option to buy electricity from other providers.
PG&E customers have been asking for a renewable energy option for some time. Now that PG&E’s other voluntary “green” program, the ClimateSmart program, has ended and a comprehensive evaluation has been completed, we believe that it is time to incorporate the lessons learned from that program and offer our customers the renewable energy option for which they have been asking.
The ClimateSmart program enabled customers to balance out the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions associated with their electricity and gas usage by investing in projects that captured or prevented GHG emissions, such as forest preservation or landfill methane capture. In contrast, the proposed voluntary Green Option will enable customers to match their electricity usage with 100% renewable energy certificates for resources such as wind and solar power. The programs are similar in that they are voluntary, opt-in programs. However they have different purposes and different means of allowing our customers to make environmentally sound choices.
Unlike the ClimateSmart program, the Green Option will be paid for solely by participating customers.
The ClimateSmart program was launched in 2007 as a three-year demonstration program and was extended until the end of 2011. The program ended because its core goals were met. These goals include educating PG&E customers about how their energy usage relates to GHG emissions and providing an opportunity for them to reduce those emissions; contracting for 1.36 million metric tons of GHG emission reductions; helping to develop and road-test protocols for a transparent and rigorous carbon offset market; and providing key support for the non-profit California Climate Action Registry (now Climate Action Reserve) which is now a highly regarded national program.
The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) regulates investor-owned electric and natural gas utilities operating in California, including PG&E. PG&E must receive approval from the CPUC in order to offer new tariffs and services, such as the proposed Green Option. There is a regulatory process that allows for stakeholder and public input. Therefore, PG&E’s proposed program design for the Green Option is subject to change and approval by the Commission.
• April 24, 2012: PG&E files Green Option Application
• Aug 2, 2012: ½ Day Workshop
• Aug 24, 2012: Common Outline of Issues Sent to CPUC
• Sept 26, 2012: Scoping Memo Issued
• Oct 19, 2012: Intervenor Testimony Served
• Nov 9, 2012: PG&E’s Rebuttal Testimony Served
• Mar 26, 2013: Settlement Conference
• April 11, 2013: Motion to Adopt Settlement Filed
For Suppliers: PG&E will post information for potential renewable energy suppliers here when available.