“If you installed solar panels on your roof and feel aglow with environmental virtue, you may be in for a rude awakening. There’s a good chance someone else has purchased your halo and is wearing it right now.”
That surprising bit of news comes from UC Berkeley business professor Severin Borenstein, a research associate of the Energy Institute at Haas.
“In most states (including California), power generated by rooftop solar panels earns renewable-energy certificates, which quantify how much clean electricity they produce,” says Borenstein. But if panels are leased or installed under a power purchase agreement, “it’s the ‘third-party owner’ — not the homeowner — who gets those certificates. Most then turn around and sell the RECs, which magically turns some other brown electrons green.”
What gives? In a Berkeley Blog post, Borenstein explains how two utility companies can each claim your green power as their own, and what that means for you and the environment.