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Now it’s easy to be green
North St. Paul offers residents a new way to support renewable energy
Although North St. Paul has offered renewable energy programs to its residents in the past, none of the previous programs made it as easy to be green as the city’s new Clean Energy Choice Program.
This program, which started this past January, allows residents — both homeowners and renters — to source 100 percent of the energy they use with renewable electricity for a $3 fixed fee per month. Residents also have the option to source only 75 or 50 percent of their energy with renewable electricity for $2 and $1 per month, respectively.
Renewable energy is energy from a source that is replenishable or not depleted when the energy is used. Typically, renewable energy refers to the energy generated by wind, solar, bioenergy or water.
The Green Power Choice Program, which was previously offered in North St. Paul, allowed customers to purchase 100 kilowatt blocks for $1.75 per block. Barb Huelsman, the North St. Paul utility billing coordinator, explained that most residents purchased two or three blocks, but the average house uses 600 kilowatts per month.
So, with the former Green Power Choice Program, residents could have about half of their power be renewable for $5.25 a month, but with the new Clean Energy Choice Program residents can pay only $3 and be assured that all of the electricity they use will be sustainable.
According to Brian Frandle, North St. Paul’s director of Electric Utilities and Minnesota Municipal Power Agency board member, “the Clean Energy Choice Program “is about giving customers a choice regarding the sources of their power.”
He adds that this program, which has been in the works for about a year, “provides an alternative to customers who may not be able to locate renewable generation at their home-either because they rent or because they do not have a property that is well-suited for renewable generation.”
Where does this clean energy come from?
North St. Paul is a member city of the Minnesota Municipal Power Agency, which supplies wholesale electricity to its member communities, so they can then sell that electricity to the residents and businesses within their cities.
MMPA is also owned by its member cities, which in addition to North St. Paul include Anoka, Arlington, Brownton, Buffalo, Chaska, East Grand Forks, Elk River, Le Sueur, Olivia, Shakopee and Winthrop.
Normally, North St. Paul’s electricity is a mixture of energy generated from natural gas and fuel oil at Faribault Energy Park in Fairbault and Minnesota River Station in Chaska, biomass at Hometown BioEnergy in Le Sueur County, wind power at Oak Glen Wind Farm in Steele County, wind power at Black Oak Getty Wind Farm in Stearns County and wind power from Hometown Wind, which utilized the wind turbine right in North St. Paul.
“In addition to its owned and contracted resources, MMPA, like all utilities in the Midwest, buys power from the Midcontinent Independent System Operator wholesale markets,” Frandle said.
Frandle explained that currently Minnesota law requires 17 percent of all power to be supplied by renewable sources, and that amount must increase to 25 percent by 2025.
He added that the renewable energy for the Clean Energy Choice Program includes the wind turbine in North St. Paul and the recently completed Black Oak Getty Wind Farm in addition to renewable energy the MMPA purchases from other utilities.
How does the program work?
Unfortunately, renewable energy is often not provided directly to the homes of North St. Paul residents. Electricity flows along the path of least resistance and once it enters the electrical grid it is impossible to determine the specific origin source of any specific kilowatt.
However, MMPA ensures that all energy going to homes in the Clean Energy Choice Program is compensated for with renewable energy.
According to the Clean Energy Source Program website, “Every kilowatt-hour of renewable energy created is assigned a unique renewable energy certificate number to ensure that each unit of renewable energy is accurately tracked and only counted once.”
The website goes on to explain that renewable energy certificates are permanently set aside for each household that participates in the program, and they are in addition to the amount set aside to reach the state’s required renewable energy amount.
Huelsman said that about 150 North St. Paul households are participating in the Clean Energy Choice program so far.
“It actually has gone over pretty good,” she added.
Aundrea Kinney can be reaches at 651-748-7822 or email@example.com.
New wind farm
Minnesota Municipal Power Agency recently added the Black Oak Getty Wind Farm to its portfolio of renewable resources. The 78-megawatt wind farm located in Stearns County operates 39 wind turbines and began commercial operation in December 2016.
For comparison, the MMPA received 44 megawatts of wind energy from the Oak Glen Wind Farm, and 8 megawatts of bioenergy from Hometown BioEnergy.