Seattle City Light DEBRA SMITH, General Manager and CEO
Global Change


Green Power Program -- Frequently Asked Questions


What is green power anyway?
Green power is a popular name for energy that's produced by renewable resources like wind, solar and geothermal which can be used over and over again without running out. This "green," earth-friendly energy reduces pollution as well as the production of greenhouse gases associated with other fossil fuels, such as coal and oil.

But I thought Seattle City Light was already green?
Much of our electricity does come from green power, such as hydroelectric energy from dams, and wind energy from our contract with the Stateline Wind Project in Eastern Washington. However, a small portion of our electricity comes from nuclear, coal and natural gas, from power we buy from the Bonneville Power Administration and the public marketplace. You already pay for these sources through your regular rates. The new plan allows you to take the next step in supporting and creating new green power sources.

How do City Light Green Power Options work?
These options let you, our customer, voluntarily pay an additional premium above your regular energy rate. All of these payments go toward building or acquiring a wider range of green power resources for our region. Ultimately, the goal is nothing less than revolutionizing the way we do business by making green power accessible and affordable.

Just how much are those additional premiums?
You may choose from several fixed-amount premiums as follows:

Residential Customers have 3 options for Green Up, $3, 6, or 12 per month, and may contribute to Green Power in any amount. Business customers may subscribe to both Green Up and Green Power in any amount.

The additional premium will appear as a line item on your electric bill. Or, support Green Power with an individual check, any amount, any time.

Are my payments tax deductible?
No, your payments to Green Power are not tax deductible since funds are used to acquire new sources of renewable energy and provide a direct local green power benefit.

The wind and sun are free, aren't they? Why do I have to pay more for green power?
Wind and sunshine may be free, but the facilities that convert their energy to electricity are not. Right now, renewable energy facilites are more expensive to build than conventional plants. Costs will come down, but only when the demand for green power is strong. In turn, high demand will lead to the development of new ways to harness green power, offering more choices and further reducing costs.

Where will my green power money go?
Green Up revenues support development of regional wind projects while Green Power funds local solar and other renewable demonstration projects.

But how can I be sure my money is really going for green power?
Not to worry. All funds collected will be deposited to a separate account. City Light must answer directly to the Seattle City Council and state officials on these funds. Annual reports will show precisely how many people are taking part in Green Power, how much money has been collected and how that money is being spent.

How much green energy do those premiums buy?
Funds will be used to build local renewable power capacity. In effect, dollars invested now will help build facilities that will continue to produce energy for 20 or more years. While solar projects result in a higher program cost per kilowatt-hour ($/kWh) than other potential green resources, one advantage is that they are easily scaled to the funds available. All green energy generated using Green Power program funds will be monitored and reported as facilities come on-line.

Do other utilities offer similar programs?
Green power programs vary according to each utility's unique circumstances. In Washington, state law now requires all utilities with more than 25,000 customers to offer a voluntary green power program. Some voluntary green power programs, such as Avista Utilities' wind purchase or Benton PUD's landfill-gas to energy purchase allow customers to buy "blocks" of green energy for a certain price, e.g. $2 for a 100 kWh block. Since renewable energy is typically more expensive than traditional power, the green power premium or payment covers that cost. Similarly, many utilities offer customers the option of a block payment, which is used to buy "green tags" (see below).

What is a green tag?
Green tags refer to the environmental attributes associated with electricity generated from renewable resources when they are marketed separately from the electricity. The environmental benefits result when generation of electricity from a non-renewable resource, such as coal or gas, is avoided. Green tags are sold by developers of green power facilities to utilities, businesses and individuals who wish to "green" a portion or all of their energy supply. The green tag purchaser still pays for electricity in the same way as before.

Will my investment really make a difference?
Yes! You are literally transforming the marketplace. By increasing the amount of power generated from renewable resources, you:
  • reduce our dependence on fossil fuels, which are not only finite but produce global warming emissions which City Light must mitigate at additional cost;
  • help to build or buy a wider range of renewable energy sources in our region;
  • raise awareness about the benefits of green power so it becomes more readily available and at a lower cost.
OK, I'm convinced. How and when do I sign up?
You have several choices: What if I decide later on that I don't want to take part in the program?
We hope you don't but if you want to leave the program, contact City Light at 206.684.3000 and cancel your enrollment. It's as simple as that.
If you have questions, contact us at:
SCLEnergyAdvisor@seattle.gov
or call (206) 684-3800