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Cut Carbon: Electricity from Wind
NSTAR is your electric company. There are multiple companies, including NSTAR, from which you can purchase electricity from wind, but regardless of the alternative you select, NSTAR will continue to deliver electricity to your home, maintain the wires and send your bill.
About 20% of the CO2 from an average household in Brookline comes from the fossil fuels burned to make electricity. Electricity from wind eliminates these, which is a reduction of about 5,000 lbs./year for the average home. This is by far the single simplest, most effective way to reduce a significant percentage of your home CO2 output.
CAB has investigated 15 possible alternative electricity providers availabe to Massachusetts NSTAR customers. We believe that Energy Plus emerged as superior for cost and ease of use and we highlight it here. But we also include information on NSTAR Green, the wind electricity program direct from NSTAR.
Energy Plus is a Pennsylvania company with about 200,000 customers in nine states. It is audited and certified by Green-e Energy. From our experience, they have a smooth-running operation with an 800-number and real people who answer when you call. They offer a smooth and seamless transition from NSTAR, including having the bill come from NSTAR. They have one of the cheapest 100% wind options we have found and, if you're dissatisfied for any reason, you can switch back to conventional NSTAR basic.
Auditing: Both Energy Plus and NSTAR Green (as well as other electricity from wind programs) are audited by the independent third-party organization, Green-e Energy, which was established by the non-profit Center for Resource Solutions to set minimum standards for green electricity and to verify that utilities are purchasing the proper amount of “Renewable Energy Credits” (RECs) and are not double counting RECs for voluntary green energy sales (like NSTAR Green) and RPS compliance.
One REC is equal to 1 MWh of electricity. The average home uses ~5-10MW (~5-10 RECs) per year. RECs are sold by electricity producers and bought by electricity suppliers as if electricity were a commodity. When NSTAR or Energy Plus buys one REC from a renewable producer of electricity, that producer is obliged to put one REC of electricity into the United States’ massive electrical grid, from which customers receive their household electricity.
Prefer to stay with NSTAR? "NSTAR Green" is an NSTAR program through which your home electricity use can support wind farms, which produce no CO2, rather than fossil fuel power plants, which produce CO2 from burning natural gas, coal and oil. If you choose NSTAR Green, CAB can vouch for the validity of their service, which is described in detail below.
NSTAR Green - some details: NSTAR Green is an independent program for NSTAR’s electricity customers who want to voluntarily lower their CO2 output by purchasing electricity from a wind farm. Currently ~0.8% of NSTAR 987,000 residential customers are enrolled in NSTAR Green, and they receive ~0.5% of NSTAR’s Basic Service electricity load.
Massachsetts’ Mandated Green Electricity (RPS): Beginning in 2003, the Massachusetts legislature dictated that NSTAR must purchase electricity from renewable sources, which is referred to as a “Renewable Energy Portfolio Standard” (RPS). NSTAR’s RPS obligation is 4% for 2009 and will increase at 1% per year until 2020. NSTAR’s total electricity load is ~22 TW (terawatts, which is 10 12 watts) per year, though the 4% figure is applied only to NSTAR’s Basic Service load (~10.5 TWh/yr).
NSTAR Green and RPS are independent: NSTAR’s RPS obligation is completely separate from its NSTAR Green obligation, and, thus, for 2009, NSTAR must purchase the sum of what is required for each of these programs; i.e. ~4.5% of NSTAR’s Basic Service load must come from renewable sources that do not generate CO2. This is ~4.5% less electricity that NSTAR purchases from other sources, most of which burn fossil fuels (gas, oil and coal) and produce CO2 to generate electricity.
NSTAR’s Wind Farm Contracts: In consultation with the Union of Concerned Scientists, the Conservation Law Foundation and Environment Massachusetts, NSTAR signed two longterm contracts with renewable electricity facilities to meet both their RPS obligation and their green energy sales. The contracts are with wind farms in Maple Ridge NY and Kibbey Mountain ME. (The latter came on-line in October 2009.) These contracts in total provide a maximum output of 60MWh per hour of electricity, with the average output being ~30% of maximum or ~0.16 TW/yr. This is enough for ~30,000 households and represents ~1.5% of NSTAR’s Basic Service load. Since NSTAR Green customers are only drawing ~0.5% of NSTAR’s Basic Service load, NSTAR applies the rest of the output from these wind contracts (~1%) to its RPS mandate, which is then supplemented to 4% by purchases from other sources.