Hydropower in Green Pricing Programs: Buyer Beware

HRC or member-contributed


Hydropower Reform Coalition


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ReportsPublished   12/1/2009

There are now 850 electric utilities − nearly a quarter of all the utilities − offering green-pricing programs in the United States. These programs allow the utilities’ customers to voluntarily pay a premium rate for the green product − electricity generated from renewable-energy.

Some utilities identify the specific renewable-energy facilities that are included in their green-pricing program, but most do not, and instead only disclose the various renewable energy types − solar, wind, biomass, geothermal and hydro− comprising their green-power product.

This lack of information about the specific facilities − particularly hydropower dams − from which electricity is sourced for green-pricing programs concerns the Hydropower Reform Coalition (HRC), because hydropower projects are not intrinsically “green.” While flowing water is a renewable-energy source, the cumulative impacts to local environment across the nation from converting water’s kinetic energy to electricity is comparable to the impacts of fossil fuel power plants on a per megawatt basis.

Unless the hydropower facility has received certification from the Low-Impact Hydropower Institute (LIHI), HRC does not consider electricity sourced from conventional hydropower projects to be appropriate to green-pricing programs.

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