Energy Cast Podcast: Clean vs. renewable power- What’s the difference?

Arcadia Solar
DC-Based Arcadia Power is connecting customers across the nation with renewable energy. In some cases like this 3.3-MW solar facility in RI, customers were directly responsible for its construction.

Energy Cast is a podcast featuring some of the top experts across all links in the energy industry chain, including renewables, generation and more! Jay Dauenhauer created the show and has been hosting Energy Cast for several years.

Click below to listen to the full episode:

Much like my Episode 71 guest, Arcadia Power wants to give electric customers access to 100% clean, renewable energy on their accounts.

This Washington, DC-based company was founded in 2014.  What makes Arcadia unique is the fact that it is not a Retail Electric Provider.  Rather, Arcadia takes over  of a customer’s current energy bill.  Depending on how much energy that customer uses, Arcadia buys Renewable Energy Certificates to cover the amount of energy needed to make a customer’s account 100% renewable.

“We can go around the country and support wind and solar farms, and you can do that through our platform no matter where you live,” says Joel Gamoran, Arcadia’s , Director of Product Operations & Energy Services.

I was curious if this “hurt” the utility a customer might be paying their bill to.  By passing the bill to Arcadia, the utility is still being paid.  In addition, Arcadia says they have a “rewards program” for paying with a credit card, which also ensures utilities get paid on time.

“What we’re doing is above a utility’s renewable goals.  We’re not hurting the utility in any way,” says Joel. “We’re enabling more individual customers to find ways to support renewable energy above and beyond what their state policy may be or what their utility may be doing.”

After producing two back-to-back episodes on Renewable Energy Certificates (or Credits, known as “RECs”), I still had questions about how the system worked.  It didn’t seem possible to sell renewable energy to one customer and then sell the certificate for that energy to someone using, say, coal or gas.

Natalie Rizk, Arcadia’s Brand & Communication Manager, helped me with some of these questions.  A few takeaways:

  • A REC’s price is unrelated to Wholesale energy prices (the cost of the electricity) , so $40/MWh does not mean a REC costs $40
  • Using renewable energy does not entitle a customer to a REC
  • RECs are generally cheaper, meaning your electric bill does not double
  • REC costs fluctuate with the market
  • No national or international market manages REC sales
  • Companies like Arcadia build relationships with wind farms to purchase RECs
  • If I live in a state that is 15% renewable, Arcadia will buy 85% RECs to make my energy 100% renewable.  They also offer a 50% renewable option.

Natalie also explained that Arcadia enrolls customers in “Smart Rate” programs to help offset the cost of purchasing RECs.  The company claims that they are able to lower customers’ bills overall.

With my last guest, I was curious if “clean power” and “renewable power” were the same.  After all, nuclear energy is 100% carbon-free.

“We’re supportive of anything that’s going to get us a 100% clean energy future.  Today the biggest impact we can have is by supporting wind and solar,” says Joel, adding, “I think new nuclear, just for purely economic reasons, is probably less likely to be a part of the solution than wind and solar and potentially other technologies to come.”

In addition to connecting customers with RECs, Joel says Arcadia is directly responsible for renewable power projects across the country.

In 2019, Arcadia cut the ribbon on a 3.3-MW community solar installation in Rhode Island, made up of Arcadia Power customers.

“I think the fastest and most impactful way for us to [develop clean energy] today is by connecting our members to renewable energy from wind and solar projects,” says Joel.  “Some of our programs, you have a very direct line, where you can point to, ‘I am specifically responsible for this project being built.'” (This podcast originally aired in November 2019).

Dauenhauer is a member of the DISTRIBUTECH International advisory committees. Join us October 28-29 for the virtual DISTRIBUTECH+ series NEXT WEEK!

This month’s focus is on Renewables, Energy Storage and How Utilities are Preparing for a Sustainable Future. Register for the sessions here – you don’t want to miss out!

Energy Cast Podcast is hosted biweekly by Jay Dauenhauer.

Learn more about the podcast here.

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Jay Dauenhauer is a project manager based in Charlotte, NC. He currently serves as a PM developing transmission projects. For the past 7 years, Jay led water treatment and recycling projects for Oil & Gas operations. Jay's first foray in the energy sector was as a media analyst for TXU Energy during the $45B leveraged buyout of that utility in 2007. He then served as Executive Director of the Clean Coal Technology Foundation of Texas, working with stakeholders to pass clean energy legislation for the state. A Louisiana native and proud graduate of LSU, his career began as a TV news producer before transitioning into the energy sector. Back behind the mic, Jay hopes to bring his experience working across several energy sectors to you in a program designed to be accessible to both the public and industry insiders.

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