When label stock maker UPM Raflatac wanted to go 100 percent renewable, it didn’t have the luxury of building a solar or wind farm at its plant in Henderson County, North Carolina.
But it did have another option: It could buy the ownership rights to the amount of energy its Mill River plant and its 170 employees would use in a year.
The path to 100 percent renewable involved buying Renewable Energy Certificates (RECs) through Duke Energy’s company REC Solutions. To renewable energy insiders, a REC (pronounced “wreck”) is a common term. To the rest of the world – not so much.
A REC is a market-based instrument that can be bought, sold and traded. One REC is issued when 1 megawatt-hour (MWh) of electricity is generated and delivered to the electricity grid from a renewable energy source. It can be from a rooftop solar array, large wind farm or several other energy sources.
Many companies cannot change the sources of electricity delivered by the local energy grid. But by purchasing RECs, those same companies can buy the ownership rights to renewable energy. By owning the REC, a company can legally claim the renewable energy as its own.
Currently, a REC can cost anywhere from 75 cents to $8 per MWh in Duke Energy’s regulated service territories – depending on geography and various state regulations. In some areas of the northeastern United States, a REC can cost as much as $400.
So as customers seek to meet their sustainability goals, buying RECs could be a growing part of that strategy. And Duke Energy might be the first energy company they call.