Buying Green Energy for Our Community

As with most utilities, Holland BPW generates electricity locally at the Holland Energy Park and our peaking units, buys energy from the electric power grid and participates in Purchase Power Agreements for energy and capacity from other resources, including renewables like landfill gas, wind and solar generation.

Renewable Energy Credits (RECs)

Currently, about 15% of our energy comes from renewable sources. Whenever a renewable energy source like wind, solar or hydro generates 1,000 kilowatt hours of electricity, a third party organization issues a Renewable Energy Certificate (REC). RECs represent actual generated electricity and each REC has a unique identifier. RECs can be bought and sold by market participants, but once they are retired, they cannot be used again.

RECs are a certifiable way to ensure that the electricity we use comes from a renewable source. Because the electricity we use doesn’t come out of the socket with a serial number, RECs allow us to tie our usage to specific renewable generation. The demand for RECs also signals a greater desire for increased supply of renewable energy, encouraging companies to build more renewable generation.

According to MIRECS, Michigan’s third-party REC-certifying organization, in the most recent reporting year (2020-2021) over 500,000 RECs were retired, meaning that they were used and claimed as renewable energy use. That’s 500,000,000 kilowatt hours of electricity, or enough to power a quarter of Holland BPW’s electric customers for an entire year!*

The Next Best Thing

For most of us, buying solar panels or installing geothermal energy sources for our home or business may be difficult. Building our own generation requires purchasing equipment, finding the appropriate land and designing optimal layouts for such needs. And while renewable energy generation on premises has many benefits, there are always times when the sun isn’t shining or wind isn’t blowing in our particular corner of the world. In these moments our needs don’t suddenly stop, and so we either need energy storage or we need to use other sources of generation to fill in the gap.

Renewables & Buying Organic

Think of renewable energy like an organically-grown, fresh tomato. If you want to have fresh, organically-grown tomatoes whenever you choose, then the ideal situation would be to have your own source of tomatoes on your property. These tomatoes require space, care and the appropriate set up outdoors. You must have a good climate, weather, water and the ability to keep pests out. And once the tomato plants are growing, they only produce fruit for a portion of the year here in Michigan. This may pose a problem mid-winter when you’d like a fresh tomato. 

The next best situation besides growing your own tomatoes would be to buy one from a grocery store, but how can you know the farmer’s growing practices? You can buy organic-certified produce. Even if you can’t grow your own tomatoes or aren’t able to grow them in the winter, buying organic produce allows you to invest in and support good growing practices while certifying where your fruit came from. 

The same is true of renewable energy credits–they’re an investment in and support of renewable energy generation with a certifiable way to say where your energy came from. Much like buying certified organic tomatoes, RECs are currently the best alternative to generating our own renewable energy. They allow us to tie all of our energy use to a determined number of kWhs at a solar, wind, hydro or biogas generating facility.

Join in the Effort

Holland BPW’s Elective Renewable Energy program ensures that program participants are purchasing renewable energy through the use of RECs for a low $0.01 additional fee per kWh (in addition to their energy rate). Those RECs can come from resources that we own, or if needed, purchased on the market to meet our customer participation levels.

Here’s how it works:  

  1. Holland BPW electric customers sign up for either 50% or 100% renewable energy.
  2. We retire RECs for the energy used by program participants.
  3. We use RECs received from our ownership in renewable resources or purchase more RECs on your behalf.
  4. Together, program participants and Holland BPW invest in the sustainability of our community.

Currently, over 260 residential and 195 business/commercial accounts participate in this program. All of these businesses have chosen to make 100% of their electricity from renewables, and over 75% of these residential customers have done the same. Last year we lowered the rate from $0.015/kWh to $0.01/kWh, making it even easier and cheaper for our community to support renewables.

*Assuming the average home electricity use of 600 kwh/month, 31,000 HBPW electric customers, and that each REC represents 1,000 kWh.

Learn more about this initiative in our CEP Annual Report, or sign up for the elective renewable energy rate today!