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Allegheny Power customers can buy wind energy

Allegheny Power customers can buy wind energy

Clean Currents offers 2 products

Megan Miller
Cumberland Times-News

CUMBERLAND — Allegheny Power customers can now buy wind-generated electricity from renewable energy broker Clean Currents — but what will they actually be getting?

Clean Currents, headquartered in Rockville, offers wind-generated electricity to Allegheny Power customers in Allegany, Garrett, Washington and Frederick counties, according to a Dec. 7 news release from the company.

Clean Currents sells two products, electricity that’s touted as either 50 percent or 100 percent wind energy. But that doesn’t mean the specific electrons flowing into a customer’s home are actually coming from wind turbines, explained company spokeswoman Kristi Neidhardt.

“It’s actually more like supporting wind power,” Neidhardt said. “We purchase renewable energy credits. It’s a way of helping wind farms to be economically viable.”

When companies sell “clean” electricity, what customers get is still regular electricity out of the power grid, the same thing they’d be getting from other suppliers. That’s because the power generated by wind farms and other renewable energy producers goes into the grid along with the electricity produced from coal and other sources. There’s no way to keep electrons from one source separate from others or to bring only wind-generated electricity into a home or office, unless the structure is connected to its own wind turbine.

But when you buy electricity from a renewable energy broker, you are actually purchasing clean energy — in a way.

Renewable energy producers, such as wind farms, basically create two products, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The first is the actual, physical electricity that goes into the power grid. The second product is an intangible commodity called a renewable energy certificate. Every time a renewable energy producer generates 1,000 kilowatt-hours of electricity, it equals one certificate, which that producer can sell.

Renewable energy brokers purchase the certificates, and each one is representative of buying 1,000 kilowatt-hours of clean electricity. Customers, in turn, basically pay for the certificates from the brokers and indirectly support the renewable energy producer.

“Typically companies purchase the renewable energy certificates several times throughout the year,” said Clean Currents President Gary Skulnik. “There’s a procurement strategy based on customer base and pricing. The customers at Allegheny Power now can lock in their pricing for one or two years, because we’ve been able to lock in certificates for one- or two-year periods.”

That approach helps Clean Currents’ offerings be priced competitively. The company’s rates for its 100 percent product are more expensive than the average utility price, Neidhardt said, but its 50 percent rates are slightly less expensive.

Clean Currents is only an electricity supplier and uses existing utility lines to serve its customers. Customers who choose to switch to Clean Currents will still have their electric lines serviced by the utility company, and will still call the utility in the case of a power outage or other problem.

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