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Table of Contents

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Major Topic Sections

Fossil-fueled Power
Non-Fossil Generation
End-Use Efficiency
Electricity T&D
Carbon Sequestration
Non-CO2 Reductions
Other GHG Reductions

Related topics in this section

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Nuclear Energy
Wind Power
Solar Thermal Elec.
Biomass Power
Geothermal Energy
Pumped Storage
Green Pricing
Green Tag Pgms.


 Green Tag Programs


In much of the United States, consumers do not yet have the option to purchase “green power” from renewable energy sources. “Green Tags” are designed to provide an option to households, corporations and organizations that wish to support the development of renewable sources of energy, but are not located in a deregulated market where they can directly purchase green power.

Green Tags (also known as green certificates, renewable energy certificates (RECs), or tradeable renewable certificates (TRCs)) are created when wind power or other renewable energy is substituted for traditional power. Green Tags represent the environmental attributes of power generated from renewable electric plants in the form of a marketable commodity. For every unit of renewable energy generated, equivalent amounts of Green Tags (renewable certificates) are produced. Renewable energy certificates are usually sold in 1 megawatt-hour (MWh) units. A certificate can be sold separately from the MWh of generic electricity it is associated with. This flexibility enables customers to offset a percentage of their annual electricity use with certificates generated elsewhere.

Since renewable energy is still usually a little more expensive than buying traditional power, customers pay a small premium to the Green Tag supplier, thus purchasing the environmental benefit derived from higher-cost renewable power sources. Several organizations offer Green Tags separate from electricity service, so that customers do not need to switch from their current electricity supplier to purchase these certificates. The customer continues to pay its existing utility for electricity use – the utility bill and payment process is unchanged.

Buying Green Tags has the same effect as buying green power. Both actions replace fossil fuel generators with clean renewables, and both have exactly the same environmental benefits. Green Tags support new renewable electricity generation, and help shift the overall energy mix toward more renewable resources. By doing so, Green Tags help build a market for renewable energy, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and may have other environmental benefits such as reducing regional air pollution.

"White Tags" are the energy efficiency version of Green Tags. White Tags™ were developed by Sterling Planet and are certified by Environmental Resources Trust. White Tags™ represent the carbon reductions from energy efficiency, typically industrial energy efficiency projects such as boiler replacements. White Tags™ are a new entrant into the energy efficiency field and serve an important role in developing a market for project-based energy efficiency credits.

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 References, Sources, and Other Useful Data

Aquila, Inc.  “Aquila Seeks Green Tag Program for Biomass Plant”, in Renewable Energy Today, Sept 26, 2003

In 2003, Aquila, Inc. announced that it is working with the Colorado Office of Energy Management and Conservation "to develop the first U.S. Green Tag renewable energy program" that would support the company's biomass waste-to-energy power plant in Canon City, CO.

Bonneville Environmental Foundation. “BEF Carbon Offsets”

The Bonneville Environmental Foundation, a national non-profit organization, sells BEF Carbon Offsets (formerly known as Green Tags). BEF Carbon Offsets work to replace traditional polluting sources of electricity with clean, secure, and sustainable sources of energy that come from solar and wind power generated across North America. As these renewable energy projects produce clean energy, they are helping to secure energy independence and fight global warming by reducing our dependence on fossil fuels. This results in less carbon dioxide released into the environment and a smaller footprint for consumers.

Carbonfund.org, "Energy Efficiency"

"White Tags™" are the energy efficiency version of Green Tags. White Tags™ were developed by Sterling Planet and are certified by Environmental Resources Trust. White Tags™ represent the carbon reductions from energy efficiency, typically industrial energy efficiency projects such as boiler replacements. White Tags™ are a new entrant into the energy efficiency field and serve an important role in developing a market for project-based energy efficiency credits.

Environmental Protection Agency, "Green Power: Tags vs. Delivered Products”

The difference between green power as a “delivered product” and a “green tag” can be subtle and complicated. This 3-page brochure describes the difference.

Green Mountain Power, “Cool Home”

Green Mountain Power is partnering with Clean Air-Cool Planet to offer customers the opportunity to “neutralize” the CO2 emissions from a typical Vermont home. Customer’s monthly payments help finance the construction of Vermont-based methane projects and support the first utility-scale Native American owned wind turbine, being built in the Midwest. 

Green-e, "Green-e Certified Renewable Energy"

The Green-e Renewable Energy Certification Program is a certification program that sets consumer protection and environmental standards for renewable energy options and verifies that Green-e certified options meet these standards.  By requiring consumer and environmental safeguards, Green-e builds consumer confidence in renewable energy options, expands the retail market for renewable energy and provides customers with clear information about renewable energy options, enabling them to make informed purchasing decisions.   Consumers can use the Green-e logo to quickly identify renewable energy options that meet Green-e’s high standards.

NativeEnergy, “Our Projects”

NativeEnergy helps build Native American, farmer-owned, community based renewable energy projects that create social, economic, and environmental benefits. Native Americans and farmers traditionally care for and care about the environment because they are also very dependent on the gifts of the Earth for their survival. They are seeking a way to build their economies and their communities. This page gives descriptions of past and current projects.

Sterling Planet, "3 Steps to Carbon Neutrality"

Sterling Planet is a sustainability pioneer, having introduced the first nationwide retail renewable energy certificate choice in 2001 and White Tags™ energy efficiency certificates in 2006. Today, Sterling Planet offers the first comprehensive carbon neutrality solution: White Tags™, certified renewable energy and verified carbon offsets.

Tennessee Valley Authority, “The Switch is On”

TVA and local public power companies, working with input from the environmental community, have created a program called Green Power Switch® to produce electricity from cleaner, greener sources and add it to the Tennessee Valley’s power mix. Green Power Switch is a renewable energy initiative that offers consumers in the Tennessee Valley a choice in the type of power they buy.

World Resources Institute, “Guide to Purchasing Green Power: Renewable Electricity, Tradable Renewable Certificates and On-Site Renewable Generation”

This research report is a collaboration between the U.S. Department of Energy, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, World Resources Institute, and Center for Resource Solutions. The Guide to Purchasing Green Power provides an overview of green power markets and describes the necessary steps to buying green power. The Guide is intended for organizations that are considering the merits of buying green power as well as those that have decided to buy it and want help doing so.

U.S. Department of Energy, “The Green Power Network”

The Green Power Network (GPN) provides news and information on green power markets and related activities. The site provides up-to-date information on green power providers, product offerings, consumer protection issues, and policies affecting green power markets. It also includes a reference library of relevant papers, articles and reports.

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Last revised: Dec. 11, 2009.