Green power is electricity generated from renewable, high-efficiency, or low-pollution energy sources, such as wind or solar energy. It's clean, it's simple to sign up, and it's now available to all Minnesotans!
Your purchase of green power will replace electricity that would otherwise come primarily from burning coal — one of the dirtiest fuels for producing electricity. Here in Minnesota, 75 percent of the energy we consume comes from coal — less than 1 percent currently comes from wind.
Since most of Minnesota's electrical utility green power programs use wind power, much of which is generated right here in our state, you can change that balance for the better!
Buying green power helps our health, environment, and economy
Minnesota, particularly the southwestern part of the state, has some of the best potential for generating wind energy in the nation.
More than 80 percent of Minnesotans think electric companies should emphasize renewable energy sources, such as solar and wind power, over fossil fuels when generating additional electricity. And with good reason! "Green power" has a great many benefits:
- Helps prevent acid rain by reducing sulfur dioxide and nitrous oxide emissions.
- Reduces mercury emissions from power plants, which significantly contribute to fish consumption warnings.
- Helps keep our air clean by reducing small particulates and several other unhealthy emissions.
- Significantly reduces carbon dioxide, the primary contributor to global warming.
- Improves Minnesota's economy, especially in rural parts of the state where farmers can lease their land for wind development.
- Creates additional demand for clean, renewable energy above and beyond any legislative requirements that utilities must meet.
Minnesota utility customers can buy small amounts of green power for as little as $1.50 a month more, or buy as much as 100 percent of their electricity usage. For the average home, a month of 100 percent green power would cost about $6 to $14 more than traditional energy sources.
Signing up for your utility's green power program is simple! Contact your electricity provider (information should be on your electric bill) and ask to sign up for their green power program. The amount you choose to purchase will be added to your future bills.
Tell your friends and neighbors! We need your help to spread the word about the benefits of green power. Let your friends and neighbors know how simple it is to help clean our air!
The MPCA's decision to actively purchase green power has helped it earn recognition from U.S. EPA as a Green Power Partner. The commitment to purchase green power was encouraged by MPCA's Jeff Ledermann, who initiated a challenge targeting staff members, encouraging them to sign up for green power at home. Based on the success and interest in that campaign, the agency's management made the commitment to match the level of staff sign-ups by purchasing wind energy from our electricity provider at the 520 Lafayette Road building.
By committing to have 14 percent of its electrical energy coming from green power, the MPCA is serving as an environmental model to other agencies and businesses. The MPCA's 14 percent use of renewable energy amounts to keeping 300 tons of CO2 out of our atmosphere per year. The additional annual cost is $9,000.
Frequently asked questions
Why is this happening in Minnesota? State law (§ 216B.169) requires that all public electrical utilities offer their customers the opportunity to purchase green power. This requirement is above and beyond other laws requiring utilities to produce green power (renewable energy).
While individual green power customers do have to pay more for cleaner energy, those efforts will directly result in new green power that wouldn't otherwise be built. Even a small $2/month commitment can send a big message to the electrical utilities and other decision-makers that customers really want green power now.
What are the benefits, again? Buying one block of green power (100 kilowatt-hours, typically about $2/month) for a year:
- replaces enough coal-fired power to prevent 2,207 pounds of carbon dioxide (CO2), 6.64 pounds of sulfur dioxide (SO2), 4.78 pounds of nitrogen oxides (NOx), and 0.024 grams of mercury.
- has the same environmental benefit of not driving a car 2,400 miles or planting a half-acre of trees
How does green power get to me? Green power does not go directly to your house, because utilities cannot direct specific electricity to a specific place. However, when you purchase green power, the total amount of green electricity that travels over the entire system is increased.
How do I know that green power is being generated? The Minnesota Department of Commerce certifies that green power programs meet the requirements of state law and verifies the utility's reporting of green power sales.
Can I install my own wind turbine? Small wind systems generate enough power for a single home, farm or a small business. Here are some resources to get you started.
This federal publication introduces the basics of small wind and helps you decide if wind energy will work for you. (2002)
- Windustry includes an outline of the major steps in planning a small wind project, links for further information, and a dedicated analyst for small wind projects.
- Database of State Incentives for Renewable Energy (DSIRE) is an online database is an excellent source of information about renewable energy programs in Minnesota: financial incentives, rules and regulations, statutory citations, and links for further information.
Energy tips: Save energy, save money
Try some of these tips to conserve energy at home, and you may not even notice the cost of buying green power:
- Turn off lights, computers, and appliances when not in use.
- Turn your thermostat down in the winter and set your air conditioner higher in the summer.
- Buy energy-efficient bulbs and appliances. Look for the ENERGY STAR logo.
- Get a home energy audit. Seal cracks and insulate.
- Electricity and the Environment
- Fresh Energy
- Energy: Minnesota Dept of Commerce
Information and assistance related to various forms of renewable and clean energy technologies for homeowners, businesses, schools, local governmental units, and nonprofits.
A non-profit organization working to create an understanding of wind energy opportunities.
- Green Power Partnership (U.S. EPA)
An initiative launched in 2001 to increase the use of renewable electricity in the United States.
- Find green power suppliers (U.S. EPA)
Online database of information about green power options available by state.
- American Wind Energy Association
- National Renewable Energy Lab
- WINDexchange (U.S. Dept of Energy)
A program to help communities weigh the benefits and costs of wind energy, understand the deployment process, and make wind development decisions supported by the best available information.
Materials are available for individuals, businesses, and groups of all kinds to conduct their own "Buy Green Power" campaigns or challenges. Statewide participation in green power programs by the public is less than 1 percent. We encourage anyone interested in promoting green power to consider coordinating a community-based campaign.
Success story: State agencies compete and everybody wins!
The state Department of Natural Resources, Pollution Control Agency, Board of Water and Soil Resources, and Department of Commerce squared off with a staff challenge to see which agency group could get the most staff to sign up for green power through their local electricity company. Many accepted the challenge to "walk the talk," and over 335 staff pledged to buy green power—including 159 new customers that signed up during the campaign—and buy a total of 571,380 kilowatt hours of wind power over the next year. The environmental benefits from the challenge were huge; the actions of the 159 new customers will annually prevent the following emissions:
- 1,050,768 pounds of carbon dioxide (contributes to global warming)
- 3,161 pounds of sulfur dioxide (can form acid rain)
- 2,275 pounds of nitrogen oxides (can combine with VOCs to form ozone pollution)
- 11.43 grams of mercury (can end up in fish and cause fish consumption warnings)
MPCA staff accounted for almost 2/3 of the total participation in the challenge. Overall, 18 percent of the environmental agency staff took the challenge and are now green power customers.