Maine green power offer moves forward

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Green power offers are one way to help connect electricity customers with renewable energy.  These voluntary programs are designed to make it easier for willing consumers to choose a greener energy mix for their home or business.  Green power offers are typically voluntary, meaning customers must affirmatively enroll in the program and select their product.  In many states, they create a mechanism for customers to buy renewable power over and above state renewable portfolio standards.  While customers in competitive markets are free to select their energy supplier, under the green power offer program one supplier is designated by regulators as the default green supplier at any given time.  This formal designation gives the default green supplier better marketing access to its customers and facilitates interactions with the transmission and distribution utility.

Maine’s green power offer will launch soon.  In December 2010, following on the state legislature’s enactment of a community-based renewable energy pilot program, the Maine Public Utilities Commission issued a request for proposals from suppliers to operate a green power offer for residential and small commercial electricity customers for a three year term.

Eligible resources for the Maine program include fuel cells, tidal power, solar arrays, geothermal installations, hydroelectric generators that meet all state and federal fish passage requirements, biomass generators, and wind power installations.  In response to the Maine commission's request for proposals, suppliers submitted bids proposing to supply products consisting of sufficient renewable energy credits (RECs) to cover half or all of each customer’s load.

At Tuesday's deliberative session, the Maine Public Utilities Commission selected the state’s first green power offer supplier.  While many of the details of the winner’s offering remain confidential for the moment, the regulators expressed interest in a flexible product composed entirely of RECs from renewable energy facilities in Maine.  The product would remain resource-agnostic, meaning the supplier could provide RECs from any eligible Maine resource.  This flexibility contrasts with other offers to deliver RECs from a specific resource such as wind.  This product, which comes in addition to a customer’s underlying energy supply and local utility wires charges, is reported to cost 1.5 cents per kilowatt-hour.

With the winner selected, Maine’s green power offer will move forward.  The success of the program will depend on a number of factors including customers’ appetites, the economy, and the green supplier’s marketing practices.

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