Frequently Asked Questions
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Learn more about the Blue Sky program
- What is renewable energy and why is it important?
Renewable energy generates electricity with little or no emissions by effectively using resources that can replenish themselves naturally – in other words, they won’t run out. The natural resources that are used in the Blue Sky program include wind and solar. Another category of renewable energy is biomass. Biomass includes organic matter and other wastes used to generate electricity. Common sources of biomass electricity supported by the Blue Sky program include burning both sawdust at lumber mills and methane produced at landfills.
Renewable energy is important for many reasons, including:
- Less impact on the environment than non-renewable sources
- Lower levels of air pollutants and wastewater
- Reduced greenhouse gas emissions
- Reduced reliance on imported and domestic fossil fuels
- Boost to local economies through job creation and investments in local renewable energy projects
- How does Blue Sky work?
When you enroll in Blue Sky, Pacific Power purchases certified renewable energy certificates from regional renewable energy facilities on your behalf. This guarantees that electricity from wind, solar and biomass facilities is delivered to the regional power system. Electricity from renewable energy facilities replaces and reduces the need for electricity generated from non-renewable sources like fossil fuels, creating measurable environmental benefits.
- What are the benefits to signing up for Blue Sky?
In addition to helping to build demand for renewable energy, reducing dependence on fossil fuels, supporting the construction of renewable energy projects and helping to restore and preserve native fish habitat you will receive the following:
- two online program newsletters per year (Forecast)
- an annual report early each year
- a window cling to show your support
- access to mobile coupons through the Chinook Book app (Oregon only)*
- email to request a yardsign to show your support.
*As our list of Blue Sky business partners grows in other states, we will have the ability to expand the offering to other state’s customers. This allows us to ensure an attractive selection of coupons for residential customers while using Blue Sky dollars responsibly in each state they are generated.
- By supporting Blue Sky am I really making a difference?
Yes. Enrolling in Blue Sky makes a big impact—on the environment, on local communities, and more!
The average Pacific Power customer who supports renewable energy equivalent to 100 percent of their monthly usage for one year creates benefits equal to not driving a car for more than 15,182 miles. To see the difference your support can make, visit our equivalent environmental benefits calculator.*
There are currently more than 80,000 customers participating in the Blue Sky program across the company’s service area who are already making a real difference. Since the Blue Sky program began in 2000, Blue Sky customers supported more than 3.5 billion kilowatt-hours of renewable energy– equivalent to the output of 772 utility-scale wind turbines over a 12-month period.**
Enrolling in the Blue Sky renewable energy program also means supporting the construction of new smaller-scale, community-based projects that might not otherwise be built. Customers participating in the Block option have helped make more than 45 community renewable energy projects possible throughout Pacific Power’s service area.
Supporting Blue Sky helps increase demand for renewable energy generation. Together, with voluntary customer purchases, company policies and state regulations Blue Sky customers are helping to encourage the development of new renewable energy facilities and reduce the need for other, non-renewable sources of energy.
* The average Pacific Power customer’s equivalent impacts are based 1,000 kilowatt-hours per month.
**The total renewable energy supported by Blue Sky customers was calculated from 2000 - 2011, the equivalent turbine output was based on a 1.5 MW turbine with a 35% capacity factor.
- How much of an impact can I make?
- Where is the renewable energy for the Blue Sky program generated?
Renewable energy associated with the Blue Sky Block program comes from newly developed regional wind sources with preference given to resources within the Pacific Power/Rocky Mountain Power six state service area, but can extend throughout the western region.
Renewable energy associated with the Blue Sky Usage and Habitat options comes from a blend of Pacific Northwest resources from Oregon, Washington and Idaho. The majority will come from wind, but other sources may include low emissions biomass, solar, certified low-impact hydro or geothermal.
To date customers have supported renewable energy generation located in Oregon, Washington, Idaho, California, Colorado, Montana, Wyoming and Utah. Their Blue Sky purchases help increase demand for renewable energy generation.
The Blue Sky Block option also helps fund new community-based renewable energy projects that can support other certified resources such as solar, geothermal, low-impact hydro, wave or tidal action or low emissions biomass.
- If I move, does the Blue Sky enrollment transfer to my new location?
Yes. If you sign up for Blue Sky and move within Pacific Power's service area, you will automatically continue with Blue Sky. There's no need to sign up for Blue Sky again when you sign up for electric service at your new home or business.
- How do I sign up?
Sign up now or call us toll free at 1-800-769-3717.
Cost related answers
- How much does Blue Sky cost?
In Oregon, Pacific Power customers have three options when choosing to support renewable energy.
Blue Sky Block (available in all Pacific Power states) costs an additional $1.95 per 100 kilowatt-hour block purchased and doesn’t fluctuate from month to month with your usage.
To calculate what your expected costs would be, please visit our online calculator.
- Where does my money go?
Funds received from participating customers are used to purchase additional renewable energy certificates from regional renewable energy facilities equal to the Blue Sky purchase and may support the construction of new community based projects that increase public education and awareness of renewable technologies; to grow the support for renewable energy through customer education and outreach efforts and to cover the costs of offering the program. We are required by regulations to allocate the costs associated with the Blue Sky program to customers who choose to participate, and we do not make a profit by offering this option to customers.
Information provided is based on a three year average. Percentages are for our six state system wide program. The Usage/Habitat options are available in Oregon only.
*Customer funds can be used to create funding awards for renewable energy projects throughout the company's service territory to help advance renewable energy technology. For this period 33 percent of renewable energy funds went to support the construction of new community based projects that increase public education and awareness of renewable technologies. Since 2006, more than 50 projects throughout Pacific Power's service area have received Blue Sky support.
- How do I know I am getting what I pay for?
The Blue Sky program is overseen by your state’s public utility commission, regional advisory groups.
Blue Sky has achieved Green-e EnergyTM Certification from the Center for Resource Solutions. The Green-e Energy program requires an annual third-party verification process audit.
- Why does Blue Sky cost more than basic service?
The Blue Sky program offers customers the opportunity to support the increased use of renewable energy above the amount that Pacific Power already generates or purchases on behalf of all its customers. Blue Sky provides an option for those who want to do even more to encourage additional renewable development – all for as little as $1.95 extra per month.
Usage and Habitat option price decrease 2013
- Why did the price of Blue Sky Usage and Habitat decrease?
The cost to support renewable energy has dropped and Pacific Power is passing the savings along to Blue Sky participants in these two options (Usage and Habitat).
Like many products and industries, prices are impacted by supply and demand. Many factors can impact supply and demand for renewable energy certificates (RECs) including the economy, state and federal incentives for development, Renewable Portfolio Standards and the voluntary market which includes customers who participate in green power programs, like Blue Sky.
Even though participation in green power programs continues to grow, other factors can still impact demand. So, while the demand is currently lower than it has been, longer term contracts have been secured with renewable energy projects in Oregon and Idaho. These contracts provide price stability over a longer term and make it possible for the utility to confidently pass along the savings to customers.
- How much will my bill decrease because of the Blue Sky Usage and Habitat price decrease?
The price of participating in the Blue Sky Usage and Blue Sky Habitat programs is falling 12.5 percent, from 1.2 cents per kilowatt-hour to 1.05 cents per kilowatt-hour. For the typical Blue Sky customer, that means a decrease of about $1.16 each month
The Blue Sky premium will remain well below the industry average of 1.75 cents per kilowatt-hour for similar programs across the country.
- Does Pacific Power earn a profit from my Blue Sky participation?
No. Pacific Power does not profit from any of the Blue Sky options.
- Why isn't the cost of the Blue Sky Block program decreasing too?
Similar to the Usage and Habitat options, Block option funds received from participating customers are used to purchase renewable energy credits from western region renewable energy facilities, grow the support for renewable energy through customer education and outreach efforts and to cover the costs of offering the program. However, customer funds from the Blue Sky Block option are also used to create funding awards for renewable energy projects in the state the participating customer lives (see a list of Community Projects in your state). The cost is higher than the cost of the Usage and Habitat programs in order to fund new, community-based, small scale renewable energy projects in addition to purchasing renewable energy certificates. Instead of decreasing the cost of the program, there will be increased funds available for the Blue Sky community project funding awards.
Pacific Power and renewable energy
- Why does Pacific Power offer renewable energy options?
The desire to give customers an opportunity to support renewable energy development above what Pacific Power is already generating, the importance of developing the regional economy, and Pacific Power’s commitment to expanding the use of renewable resources have all contributed to the existence of the Blue Sky program.
- What is Pacific Power doing to bring more renewable energy to the region?
As of the end of 2010, PacifiCorp (Pacific Power’s parent company) has more than 1,000 megawatts of owned wind generation capability. We also have long-term purchase agreements for more than 600 megawatts from wind projects owned by others.Since 2006, our owned and contracted wind-powered generation capability has increased by a total of more than 1,400 megawatts. This is equivalent to the electricity used by more than 467,000 average residential customers annually.
Quick facts about renewable energy
- If I choose a renewable energy option, will I actually receive electricity from renewable energy generation sources?
Because of the way the power system works, electricity from a specific facility or source cannot be directed to flow to a specific customer. However, we guarantee that renewable energy certificates (REC’s) from the Western region will be purchased and retired on your behalf in the exact amount of your Blue Sky purchase. These RECs will be sourced from newly developed qualifying renewable energy resource facilities. The renewable energy supported by Blue Sky customers is above and beyond that which Pacific Power generates or acquires to serve all its customers and meet state mandated renewable portfolio standards. We offer the Blue Sky program for those customers who want to see even more renewables above our system investments.
- What is a Renewable Energy Certificate (REC) or green tag?
Renewable energy certificates (RECs), also known as “green tags,” are proof that 1 megawatt-hour (MWh) of renewable energy was generated and delivered to the regional power pool, and they represent the environmental attributes of the power produced from renewable energy projects. RECs are sold separately from the electricity commodity.
For every unit of renewable energy generated and delivered to the regional power pool, an equivalent amount of renewable energy certificates (RECs) are created representing a tracking mechanism to ensure that no two customers pay for the same unit of renewable energy generation. When you sign up for Blue Sky, Pacific Power contracts for RECs to match the equivalent of your ongoing electrical needs or the number of Blue Sky blocks you elect to purchase. Thus, the more RECs that are sold, the more demand is created for renewable power. As renewable facilities sell out their RECs, demand shifts to bring more renewable energy sources on-line.
New renewable energy sources are being constructed across the United States to meet the demand created for renewable energy. Your purchase of RECs benefits the environment by encouraging greater renewable energy generation and displacing non-renewable generation from the electricity system.
- What are Renewable Portfolio Standards?
To promote the development of new renewable resources and decrease reliance on fossil fuels for electricity generation, Oregon, California and Washington have all passed a laws to create a renewable portfolio standard (RPS).
These laws established that Pacific Power and other large utilities would increase development and use of renewable energy sources. The RPS requirements for each state vary and are listed below.
These goals do not include the renewable energy certificates purchased on behalf of our voluntary Blue Sky renewable energy program and Blue Sky customers. The renewable energy supported by Blue Sky customers is above and beyond that which Pacific Power purchases to meet their RPS.
State Amount Year Organization administering RPS CA 33% 2030 California Energy Commission OR 25% 2025 Oregon Department of Energy WA 15% 2020 Washington Secretary of State
- What is certified low-impact hydro (LIH)?
Hydropower uses the flow of water to generate electricity. It produces no emissions, unlike conventional electricity sources. Certified low-impact hydro harnesses all of the benefits of hydropower while meeting more stringent environmental requirements — creating electricity with no green house gas emissions and minimal environmental impacts.
In order to be considered for the Blue Sky program, a hydro project must be certified by the Low Impact Hydro Institute (LIHI).
Low-impact hydro is different from regular dams — here’s how. While hydropower produces no emissions in the creation of electricity, dams can cause other environmental and social problems. Certified low impact hydro projects, however, are required to meet high but achievable standards to minimize environmental and social impacts.
Specifically, a project must meet criteria related to:
- river flow
- water quality
- fish passage and protection
- threatened and endangered species
- cultural resources,
- public access/recreation, and
- finally, a project cannot have been recommended for removal
The low impact hydro certification criteria are aimed at ensuring that the certified dam or run-of-the–river project adequately protects or mitigates its impacts on the environment and society.
Low-impact hydro project certification
The organization that certifies low-impact hydro projects is the Low Impact Hydropower Institute (LIHI). LIHI is an independent, nonprofit organization that assesses hydropower projects on a case-by-case basis, to see if they really meet those strict environmental standards. If a project makes the cut, LIHI provides a certification, much like a “USDA Organic” sticker—to let customers know that its energy has been generated in an environmentally friendly way. Owners of those projects get to distinguish their projects as renewable energy projects, giving them economic incentives to minimize their environmental impacts. Find out more »
- What is biomass energy?
When electricity is created by burning organic matter or the gas that is released from decomposing organic matter, it is called biomass.
Humans have used biomass since we began building fires to cook and stay warm, but it has evolved quite a bit since then.
Many sources of low-emissions, non-toxic biomass can be supported by the Blue Sky program, including:
- Solid organic fuels from wood, forest and field residues (e.g. saw dust from lumber mills)
- Dedicated energy crops available on a renewable basis
- Methane gas captured at landfills or from animal waste (e.g. dairy cow manure)
Some types of biomass do not qualify for support from Blue Sky customers because of their potential impact on the environment and human health, such as wood that has been coated with paints, plastics, preservatives or formica.
Why is biomass considered renewable energy?
Electricity generated from biomass resources used in the Blue Sky program is considered renewable energy because it relies on available waste products (wood waste, methane from decomposing garbage or cow manure) to create energy. Better yet, if this waste were allowed to decompose naturally, it would do more harm than good because decomposing waste releases methane – a more powerful greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide.
What are the benefits of biomass energy?
This energy source is associated with little to no direct greenhouse gas emissions and can help mitigate climate change, promote forest health, reduce water pollution and minimize stress on landfills. Biomass is a net zero carbon dioxide energy source.
Biomass is the nation’s largest source of renewable energy – and in many regions it’s available when and where other sources of renewable energy are not. For instance, even if your home town doesn’t have much wind, the chances are, there is a landfill somewhere nearby. In the Northwest, generating biomass energy from local resources stimulates local industries and helps manage organic wastes. For example, supporting facilities that generate biomass energy from wood waste promotes local forest health and reduces wild fire risk by clearing woody residues. In addition, it supports the local timber and paper industries by providing revenue for their waste streams.
For more information about biomass energy sources, please visit the US Department of Energy’s Biomass Energy Basics.
- Will the power to my home be dependent upon the wind blowing?
No. Your power will continue to be uninterrupted even when the wind isn’t blowing, because you are connected to the regional electricity system. The power that travels through the network of lines and wires that bring electricity to your home or business comes from a variety of generating sources.
- Do wind turbines harm birds?
Today’s new wind turbines do not pose a high risk to birds or any other wildlife. Newer technologies have slower blades that help prevent bird mortality. Sites are generally selected to avoid known migration patterns and reduce contact with endangered birds. Also, turbines are built in such a way to make it difficult for birds to use them for roosting. Learn more» (PDF)
- Where can I get more information on renewable energy options and renewable energy generation?
Call a customer service representative at 1-800-769-3717 or explore the resources below: