FTC Won’t Investigate GMP

Posted in Clean Electric, Community Solar, Solar, Solar New in VT

In the past few years Renewable Energy Credits (RECs) have become a heated topic in Vermont. So much so, that it peaked the interest of Vermont Law School (VLS) and elicited a letter from the Vermont Attorney General. If you have been following the story about the sale of RECs within Green Mountain Power (GMP) territory, this update will be of interest to you. According to a February 10th article in Times Argus, The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) decided not to investigate GMPs marketing of RECs, but said that communication to the public should remain clear. [A GMP Press Release from September 19th 2014 is available here]

Kevin Jones, a VLS professor was not happy with these results. Last year VLS challenged GMP handling of their RECs, and specifically aimed this criticism towards Vermont’s SPEED law saying that, “From an environmental and electric rate (perspective), the SPEED program has been a failure”. Kristen Carlson, a GMP representative, addressed this issue by bringing to light that the sale of RECs allows for clean energy to be bought at a lower price. Thus boosting the sale of clean energy and allowing Vermont to become a leader in clean energy production. Rates are in fact lowered through the out-of-state sale of RECs. In turn the environment has greater protection through financial support, not greater pollution. [More about GMP on RECs can be found here]

As the issue became more public, it morphed into a criticism of the definition of “credit”. While companies that sell energy from renewable sources such as wind, solar, and hydro are creating renewable energy, they are selling the “credits”. Thus, selling the right to call them renewable. This is no way negates the fact that these energy sources are in fact creating energy from a source that has renewable attributes, only that the jargon used, must reflect the credit exchange. In essence, this is what the issue has boiled down to. Meanwhile, those of us installing solar and wind generators in Vermont are happy to sell RECs out of state, to insure that Vermont resident’s get lower clean energy rates and that our environment is protected for future generations. Maybe we use “clean energy” instead of “renewable energy”, but the effects are the same.

On Thursday a letter was sent from the FTC to a GMP lawyer saying, “Although no findings have been made that these claims [made by VLS] violate the law, we urge GMP in the future to prevent any confusion by clearly communicating the implications of its REC sales for Vermont customers and REC purchasers.” To this end, we attempt to clarify the issues here and educate our Vermont Community Solar participants on the function of RECs.

Read the entire article here.

One Comment

  1. While there may have been confusion in the past about selling the credits, now the situation is very clear. Vermonters can debate whether we want to spend the extra money to keep those credits in Vermont.

    However we should give GMP great credit for encouraging solar and wind installations, regardless of where the credits ended up. In other states the utilities put up every imaginable roadblock to discourage people from installing solar. GMP was a delight to work with on my own solar installation. I do not know of another state that has a rate structure so favorable to solar and GMP did not fight that structure.

    So let’s have an open debate about how to use these credits and how much we should spend to get more renewable energy, but we should be proud of GMP’s role in helping make Vermont a model.


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