Green Power Q&A

Green Power Q&A

What is “green power?”

Green power is electric energy produced by renewable, more environmentally friendly sources, leading to less negative air, water and natural resource impacts. Typical technologies used to create green power are solar, wind, geothermal, biomass, and low-impact hydropower.

What is “Green Power EMC?”

Green Power EMC is a renewable energy initiative that offers consumers in Georgia  a choice in the type of power they buy. GreenPower EMC is a not-for-profit corporation, formed on August 6, 2001, by sixteen of Georgia’s Electric Membership Corporations working with input from the environmental community. They include: Center for Resource Solutions (CRS), Union of Concerned Scientists, National Resource Defense Council and the Sierra Club.
The members of Green Power EMC are Carroll, Coweta-Fayette, Habersham, Irwin, Jackson, Lamar, Ocmulgee, Sawnee, Snapping Shoals, Tri-County and Walton EMC, GreyStone Power Corporation and Flint Energies, all electric membership cooperatives in Georgia, owned by the members they serve. The most environmentally friendly power ever created in Georgia will be added to the member-cooperative’s power mix, and offered to members on a subscriber basis as a power option that will enable them to contribute to a cleaner environment.

How much does green power cost?

Green Power is sold to residential consumers in 150-kiloWatt-hour blocks (about 12 percent of a typical household’s monthly energy use). Each block adds $5 to the customer’s monthly power bill. In other parts of the country, residential consumers who participate in green power programs pay an extra $2 to $10 per month for green power. Green power is also being marketed to commercial and industrial consumers, who can buy blocks based on the amount of energy they use. The cost for green power is slightly higher than that created from usual sources due to the cost of the technologies involved. The extra cost is a small price to pay for the environmental benefits for generations to come. And EMC members will subscribe to use the power, so that only those subscribing will pay the additional cost.

What technology source will provide the largest source of green power for users?

In the start-up stage of Green Power EMC, existing methane gas from landfills will provide the largest source of cleaner energy. Over 300 landfills in Georgia have been researched, with 10 being classified as excellent candidates—the first and lowest cost to develop. Landfill gas is a relatively inexpensive resource that can help lower the cost of green power when combined with solar and wind energy. As Green Power EMC gets under way, the amount of landfill gas harnessed will decrease over time as wind and solar energy grow.

How does green power benefit the environment?

The environmental effects of traditional energy sources like coal, natural gas, oil, and nuclear power can be significant. Although no source of energy is impact-free, renewable resources create less waste and pollution. In fact, an investment of an additional two blocks per month on your power bill buys enough green power to equal the environmental benefits of planting an acre of trees in Georgia.

Why does green power cost more?

Although renewable sources like sunlight and wind are free, the technology used to capture the energy they produce is still more expensive than traditional power generation methods. Increased demand may lead to expanded power production capacity and eventually to lower costs.

Where are Green Power EMC’s generation sites located?

The first projects will be located in Fayette, Gwinnett, and Taylor counties, along with a Metro Atlanta site.

How much electricity will Green Power EMC produce?

Approximately 13 megawatts of green power will be generated in the first year. Physical laws determine where electricity is ultimately used, so power from these cleaner sources will go into Georgia’s electric system as part of the EMC’s total power mix, rather than to individual homes or businesses. When the green power resources aren’t operating—for instance, when wind speeds are too low to generate energy—Georgia’s other resources will continue to supply reliable electricity.

How many consumers will Green Power serve?

Green Power EMC can provide enough electricity to supply 150 kilowatt-hours a month for about 50,000 Georgia homes, plus an ample supply of energy for participating businesses and industries.

When can consumers sign up for Green Power?

Customers will be able to sign up on a voluntary basis, first come, first served possibly beginning at the end of first quarter of 2003.

How many EMC members will be affected by this new service?

The start-up group of 16 EMC’s with more than 900,000 homes, businesses, factories and farms. In total, G0eorgia’s 42 electric cooperatives serve approximately 3.7 million members, nearly half the state’s population. The members of these 16 EMC’s will be the first consumers in Georgia offered environmentally friendly electric power from their electric utilities. Green Power EMC will be the largest operational green power program in the Southeastern U.S.

What exactly are the environmental benefits of this “green power”?

EMC green projects would have the same environmental benefits as any one of the following: taking 114,400 cars off the road; planting 156,000 acres of forest; annually displacing the use of 312,000 tons of coal; or avoiding the use of 1,211,500 barrels of oil each year.

What is landfill gas, and how is electricity generated from it?

Landfill gas, which consists mainly of methane and carbon dioxide, is produced when organic wastes in landfill sites decay. At landfills over a certain size, the gas must be burned, or flared, in order to reduce the hazard arising from gas buildup. Although landfill gas is primarily a pollutant that needs to be controlled, the methane it contains makes it valuable as a fuel for powering an electric generator. Landfill gas was first used as a fuel in the U.S. during the late 1970s; since then the technology required for its collection and use has developed steadily. This method of producing renewable energy is now regarded as one of the most mature and successful in the field of green power.

Does burning landfill gas have other benefits?

If methane is released directly into the atmosphere, it is a potent greenhouse gas. In fact, its global warming potential is 21 times greater than that of carbon dioxide. As mentioned above, landfill gas can be flared (the simplest option), but using it to generate energy encourages more efficient collection and thereby reduces emissions into the atmosphere. For this reason, energy recovery from landfill methane, where economically viable, is of considerable benefit to the environment. Besides reducing global warming, it lessens the use of conventional fuels and reduces regional and local pollution.

How much electricity can a landfill produce?

It depends on the size and age of the landfill, but production tends to range from three to eight megawatts. Generators at landfill-gas sites are very reliable and operate almost year-round with little downtime. So a five-megawatt plant would produce approximately 42 million kiloWatt-hours per year—enough to supply about 3,200 homes.

How long will a landfill continue to produce gas?

Again, the answer depends on the landfill’s age and size. Although gas is produced once anaerobic conditions are established within the landfill, it may be several years before there’s enough gas to fuel an electric generator. Later, as the site ages, gas production (as well as the quality of the gas) declines to the point at which power generation is no longer economical. In the case of a typical well-engineered and well-operated landfill, gas may be produced for as long as 50 to 100 years, but production may be economically feasible for only 10 to 15 years.

Does using landfill gas to produce electricity encourage a throwaway society?

The part landfill gas plays in energy generation will decline over time as more and more waste is reduced, reused, or recycled instead of being added to landfills. As waste pretreatment becomes more widespread, the biodegradable content of landfill wastes will also drop. Such changes in waste management, combined with environmental pressures to reduce reliance on landfills for disposal, will eventually lead to a decrease in the use of landfill gas as an energy source.

What are the components of a landfill gas system?

A landfill gas to electricity system has three basic components: a gas collection system, which gathers the gas being produced within the landfill, a gas processing and conversion system, which cleans the gas and converts it into electricity, and interconnection components.

I understand this is the first such program in the state of Georgia. Do other electric utilities outside of Georgia offer this program?

More than 80 utilities offer similar programs throughout the U.S. including electric membership cooperatives in Indiana, Pennsylvania, Minnesota, Mississippi, Tennessee and the West. Green power programs are supported in President George W. Bush’s National Energy Plan and Congressional draft legislation, as well as by environmental groups who are working together to help the nation move toward cleaner air and water initiatives. The electric membership community is excited to be able to present this new initiative to its members, many of whom have requested such a program.

How will I know that this “green power” is actually powering my home?

The renewable energy that you will be purchasing is not directly routed to your home, but by subscribing you are helping to support the purchase of additional clean energy and encouraging more investment nationwide in environmentally friendly ways to generate power. For every environmentally friendly kiloWatt hour purchased by cooperative members, one less kilowatt hour is being purchased from other environmentally unfriendly sources such as coal-based energy. All the energy is being utilized on the electrical grid.

Who will certify the green power?

The “Green Power EMC Green Power Program” is currently certified by Green-e Energy.

What determines the mix of technologies?

The Board of Directors using economic guidelines for the cost per green kWh.

What is the source of the $2.5 million Technology Development Fund? Who determines allocation?

A half cent adder on the energy sold to the EMC’s. The allocation will be determined by the Board of Directors.

What percentage of green power is generated within the state or air shed for the state?

We anticipate all of our green power to be generated in the state.

What is the premium pricing structure?

Initially, $5 for each 150 kWh block subscription.

Have you looked at emissions for this approach versus a traditional approach?

Yes, and the environmental benefits are substantial when compared to the state’s generation mix, especially for carbon sequestering and SO2 avoidance.

How many RFP’s will be issued for solar? When and what assurances are there that solar will be developed?

Once we have sufficient funding from the Technology Development Fund, the Board will be issuing an RFP for grid connected solar farms, most likely at EMC corporate offices where land is available or other high visibility locations. We would like to have 10 “one acre sites” around the state with a system total of 2MWs of installed photovoltaic. We will then try to get DOE to provide matching grants for these farms, hopefully lowering the installed cost to the point that it fits within our green power pricing structure. If DOE cannot fund the projects, only a limited number of demo sites will be pursued. Our members must support the program with the premiums or the Technology Development Fund will not get to the $2.5 million level in five years. We anticipate that five to seven percent of the members will need to sign on for participating EMC’s.

How does your proposal complement the work of the current green pricing group? Are there potential conflicts with this effort?

We will know more after the criteria is developed, but hope our program meets the approved  criteria. There may be conflicts with other biomass opportunities.

The Board of Directors is made up of CEOs from the EMC’s,  I don’t see anyone represented on the Boards of the individual EMC’s. Yet you are asking, and rightfully so, for the support of the environmental community?

We would like to think that we all have a lot at stake in protecting our environment, although some of us may be more passionate than others. To that end the Board will be forming an advisory committee to guide the projects funded by the Technology Development Fund. This executive committee will have representation from the environmental community as well as technology experts.

How will you address critics who will say you are encouraging growth of landfills (i.e. a dumping ground in Georgia) by promoting LFGTE projects?

There are limited landfills to be economically developed to produce electricity (sufficient methane production, collection system in place and distribution/transmission facilities close by). Those that we are working with exist now and we are limited by air emissions to the amount of generation that can be installed at each landfill. Further, the methane available at each site from the decay process takes five or 10 years for projects.

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