The American Green Power program is intended to help the transition from fossil fuel energy to renewables, by seeking the support of householders and corporate power consumers.
The program is managed by the US Department of Energy through its Green Power Network, and involves many hundreds of electric utilities and producers. It comprises a 1) Green Pricing , 2) Renewable Energy Certificates and 3) Greenhouse Gas Offsets.
Solar, wind, hydro and other renewables need some sort of support during the current developmental phase. Electricity coming from fossil fuel is still cheaper, except perhaps in the case of wind, which is already competitive in locations with good wind resources.
The Green Pricing Program
The Green Pricing program allows consumers to buy clean electricity by paying a premium on their electric bills.
You just have to contact your electric utility and sign up for the program by phone or online; typical contracts require you to purchase a minimum of, say, two 100-kilowatt-hour (kWh) blocks of green power, paying an extra price of, say, $2-$4 a month (premiums vary from utility to utility).
For a list of American utilities, and their pricing and other elements, see: Green Power Markets and Prices
Green Certificates or Renewable Energy Certificates are also designed to get the support of consumers. They are sold by the producers of green electricity and are a proof that a specific amount of solar, wind or other renewable source of power has been generated (or is going to be generated).
When people purchase a certificate, attesting that an amount of green electricity has been or is going to be produced, tget are voluntarily supporting a green producer (the price of the certificate should reflect the difference between the cost of producing green electricity and the cost of "fossil" power).
You can buy green certificates through some electric utilities or through a marketer.
For elements on retail products, marketers and prices of American Green Certificates, see: Green Power Markets EERE Certificates. Image: Montgomery County. Typical Green House Gas (GHG) Offsets are sold by marketers and represent a reduction of 1 metric ton of CO2.
Green house gas offsets
Carbon Emission Offsets are rather similar to Green Certificates. They are issued by developers of projects involving energy efficiency initiatives, methane capture in landfill sites, reforestation, or other projects intended to capture carbon emissions.
Like Certificates they are sold to consumers that want to support such projects. In the UK they are associated to “green pricing” and are sold by electric companies, but in North America they are a separate product.
Green Power Products Quality
You may have doubts about these products or wonder which are the best ones and if the price is fair; or which are the mechanisms that support the claims made by producers about what they are selling.
This issue is solved - at least in part - by independent and credible third-party certification, performed (in the US and Canada) by the Green-e organization (logo at right). This organization is a sort of Energy Star program green power markets.