Americans will buy electric vehicles for various reasons, including reduced dependence on oil, the convenience of refueling at home, the performance advantage inherent in electric drive, never having to get another oil change, and to help clean the air. Driving on the average mix of electricity in the U.S. emits about half as much carbon dioxide pollution as the average car. In states with cleaner electricity, such as California, an electric vehicle emits only a quarter as much as the average gasoline vehicle. That’s the beautiful thing about vehicle electrification, as you clean the electrical grid, you clean the cars. Improving the fuel economy of gasoline vehicles is absolutely essential to our nation’s economic well-being and the health of the planet. However, using less oil will not get us all the way to the level of pollution reductions mandated by climate science. That will require zero emission technology, both at the tailpipe and the power plant. The good news is that we already have both. If you’re one of the thousands of Americans who are currently driving an electric vehicle, know that with $20 and a few mouse clicks, you can effectively green your car's electricty for a year.
There are several websites that allow individual consumers to purchase Renewable Energy Certificates or “RECs,” which commoditize the green attributes of clean energy. When you buy a REC, you gain the exclusive legal right to those attributes. The electrical energy associated with the certificate is sold separately, just like any other form of electricity. REC purchases provide an important revenue stream to renewable electricity facilities in America. RECs with this “Green-E” logo are the gold standard.
If you click your way through buycleanenergy.org, you’ll see that you can buy a Green-E REC for five bucks. One REC represents one megawatt-hour of electricity, or enough to drive an electric vehicle 3,000 miles. In other words, for $20, you can buy enough RECs to cover a year's worth of driving. Of course, you still have to pay your local utility for the electricity you actually use to charge the car, but you'll have gained the exclusive right to the green attributes of a comprable amount of electricity while also supporting additional renewable energy investments in the process.
On November 17th, I’ll be moderating a panel at the Renewable Energy Markets conference featuring experts from Austin Energy, Green Mountain Energy, and BMW.
We’ll be talking about REC purchases and other means to allow Americans to support both clean cars and clean electricity. Many utilities already give their customers the option to buy renewable electricity and automakers and electric vehicle charging companies are exploring means to afford their customers the same opportunity. If you can’t join us at the conference, I’d encourage you to join in the conversation on this blog.