Renewable Energy in Somerville CCE

The Somerville Community Choice Electricity program presents a unique opportunity for the City to influence the development of renewable energy resources by going above and beyond the requirements of the State – this means voluntarily purchasing additional renewable energy. See the State’s renewable energy requirements.

With Somerville Community Choice 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 Somerville Community Choice 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. Somerville 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

Somerville Community Choice Electricity 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, Somerville Community Choice Electricity does not plan to include it in its additional renewable energy.

A Local Option

Somerville Community Choice 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 that are part of the Green Energy Consumers Alliance portfolio as of September 2021. 

Having an Impact

Massachusetts has a requirement for every energy supply to include a minimum amount of MA Class I renewable energy, and that amount increases each year. If a utility or supplier does not meet the requirements, they pay a penalty. This policy provides growing demand for renewable energy, which then incentivizes new renewables to be built. By purchasing a significant quantity of extra MA Class I renewable energy, Somerville is raising demand even further, helping incentivize even more renewable energy to be built. You can read more about MA Class I RECs and their impact in this report from Green Energy Consumers Alliance.

How big is our impact? In 2019, Somerville CCE will purchase about 9,200 MWh (megawatt-hour) of extra MA Class I renewable energy, equal to more than the annual production of two typical wind turbines (1.5 MW each). In 2020, due to the increase of extra renewable energy in our Somerville Local Green rate, we expect to double that annual impact. Other cities and towns are joining with Somerville to amplify the impact even more. In fact, recent estimates suggest that fully 10% of the entire MA Class I REC markets will soon be voluntarily purchased by municipal aggregations going above and beyond state requirements, like Somerville CCE.

What Are RECs & Why We Need Them 

When electricity generated by renewable sources, such as solar and wind, is put onto our regional electricity grid, it is mixed in with, and becomes indistinguishable from other electricity sources 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.

2Environmental Protection Agency. Understanding Global Warming Potentials.