Renewable Energy

The Arlington Community Electricity program presents a unique opportunity for the Town to influence the development of renewable energy resources by going above and beyond the requirements of Massachusetts – this means voluntarily purchasing additional renewable energy. See the Massachusetts renewable energy requirements.

In Arlington Community Electricity, all purchases of renewable electricity are certified by purchasing and retiring Renewable Energy Certificates (RECs), the accepted legal instrument used to track renewable energy generation and to substantiate claims of renewable energy use. Read more about why we need RECs.

Sourcing the Additional Renewable Energy

On Our Grid

All of the additional renewable energy in the Arlington Community Electricity program come from sources designated as MA Class I. These sources must be physically part of our New England electricity grid. This stands in contrast to some electricity supplies that obtain their renewable energy from national sources (e.g. Texas) that are not physically connected to our New England electricity grid. While those sources provide very cheap electricity, you get what you pay for: including them in the electricity mix does not move our region away from fossil fuels.

Only from New England 

By law, MA Class I renewable energy can come from New England or adjacent parts of Canada and New York that are connected to our electricity grid. Arlington sources its additional renewable energy exclusively from within New England. We’re helping to keep our energy impact local and supporting New England’s clean energy economy.

Solar, Wind, LI Hydro & Anaerobic Digestion

Arlington sources renewable energy only from zero emission sources, such as solar, wind, low-impact hydro1, or anaerobic digesters which destroy the potent greenhouse gas methane2. Although traditional biomass, such as wood-fired generation, is eligible as MA Class I, Arlington Community Electricity does not plan to include it in its additional renewable energy.

A Local Option

Arlington Community Electricity sources the additional renewable energy, above and beyond State requirements, from Green Energy Consumers Alliance, a local non-profit that helps bring new renewable projects to New England through strategic support of development opportunities with short and long term contracts.   

Resources map Green Energy Consumers Alliance

Resources that are part of the Green Energy Consumers Alliance portfolio as of September 2021. 

Helping to Build Clean Energy

Massachusetts requires all energy suppliers to include a minimum amount of MA Class I renewable energy that increases annually. If the supplier does not meet these requirements, the supplier is required to pay a penalty. This policy, called the Renewable Portfolio Standard, provides growing demand for renewable energy, which incentivizes new renewable generation facilities to be built. By purchasing a significant quantity of extra MA Class I renewable energy, Arlington is incentivizing even more renewable energy generation development in New England.

How big is our impact?

As of July 2022, Arlington Community Electricity customers purchased an extra 19,434 MWh of MA Class I renewable energy, above and beyond requirements. These voluntary purchases are equivalent to the output of the annual production of nearly two (2) typical wind turbines (of size 1.5 MW each). As more residents and businesses opt up to our Local Greener and Local Greenest products, we can increase the impact even more!

The 1261 participants in Arlington Community Electricity’s 50% and 100% optional products used over 36% of all the renewable electricity that the program bought over its existence. Sign up your home.

This chart shows the proportions of all of the additional renewable electricity purchased by households in the program. Between April 2017 and October 2020, Opt Ups used ~9,318MWh and those in default product used ~17,598MWh.

We are excited that many other cities and towns are joining with Arlington to implement the same type of program and amplify our impact. In fact, recent estimates suggest that fully 10% of renewable energy purchased in the MA Class I REC market will soon be voluntarily purchased by municipal aggregations going above and beyond state requirements, like Arlington Community Electricity.

What Are RECs and Why We Need Them 

When electricity generated by renewable sources – such as solar and wind – is put onto our regional electricity grid, it becomes mixed in with and indistinguishable from the other electricity on the grid. It is not possible to physically separate out renewable electricity from the grid mix for your individual consumption. 

As a result, a tracking system, called Renewable Energy Certificates (RECs), has been created to enable the purchase and use of renewable electricity. For every one megawatt-hour of renewable electricity generated, one REC is created. In order to use renewable electricity, one must purchase a quantity of RECs equal to the amount of electricity purchased from the grid. Once used, a REC is retired so that no one else can purchase that same REC or claim to use it.

1Hydro projects that do not exceed 30 MW built after 1997 or have capacity additions or efficiency improvements made after 1997 (MA Class I eligible), and Low Impact Hydro Institute (LIHI) certified.

2Methane has a global warming potential (GWP) 28-36 times greater than CO2 over a 100 year period. Combustion destroys methane and releases some CO2, resulting in a net reduction in GWP. For more, see Environmental Protection Agency, Understanding Global Warming Potentials.