UNH Sells First Renewable Energy Certificates from EcoLine™
By Beth Potier, Media Relations
March 3, 2010
Mike Ross, Photographic Serivces.
UNH’s EcoLine™ has been generating power for the campus from landfill gas since May. Last week, it began to generate revenue, too, selling its first renewable energy certificates, or RECs, to the Hampton-based gas and electric utility Unitil. The sale of RECs will help fund the $49 million project.
Understanding how EcoLine™ can partially finance itself by selling RECs involves some public policy and utility regulation background. Throughout most of the region, utilities are required by state law to provide a certain percentage of electricity from renewable sources, says Paul Chamberlin, assistant vice president for energy and campus development. “They can do it by physically having renewable sources, like solar or hydro. If they can’t meet those percentages, they can buy certificates from someone who has,” he says.
As a power provider that uses a renewable source – landfill gas from Waste Management’s Turnkey landfill in Rochester – EcoLine™ generates one REC for every megawatt-hour it produces using landfill gas. These RECs are banked and sold either directly, as was the case with Unitil, or at auction.
While selling RECs helps finance EcoLine™, “it means we can’t claim the environmental attributes of EcoLine™,” says Chamberlin. “We can’t say the campus is being run on renewable energy” because, he adds, those renewable energy benefits are what we’re selling.
UNH energy manager Matt O’Keefe points out that REC sales promote renewable energy not just at UNH but throughout the region, by incentivizing renewable energy projects with this additional revenue stream. “The sale of these RECs are helping create other projects in the region,” he says, adding that the ability to sell RECs were critical to the financial strategy for EcoLine.
Chamberlin and O’Keefe estimate that EcoLine™ will generate about 50,000 RECs per year. UNH plans to sell the RECs for five years, after which the university will be able to take full credit for the environmental benefits, an essential element of UNH’s long-range climate action plan.
“Over the long haul, this project will have tremendous economic and environmental benefits, both for the university and the region,” says Chamberlin.
For more information on EcoLine™, go to http://www.sustainableunh.unh.edu/climate_ed/cogen_landfillgas.html.