Hydropower in Green Pricing Programs: Buyer Beware

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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, 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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