Great River Energy on Thursday unveiled a program that ties the owners of electric vehicles to the wind power created by the utility.
In actuality, there's no way for utilities to direct electricity from a specific source — whether it's a fossil fuel like coal or a renewable like solar or wind — to a specific consumer. All supplies of power end up on a grid that disperses electricity widely.
However, the Maple Grove-based utility is using the "currency" it gets from compliance with state mandates for generation of non-fossil fuel power, called renewable energy certificates, as a kind of guarantee for an electric vehicle owner.
Under Great River Energy's Revolt program, owners of plug-in electric vehicles or plug-in electric hybrid vehicles who are in its service area can apply for the guarantee that the electricity being used to power up their car is generated by wind.
The company will take certificates it has earned by generating wind power, and retire them based on the consumption of the vehicle owner instead of either keeping them or trading them with utilities that don't generate as much renewable energy.
Great River Energy supplies power to 28 co-ops with more than 650,000 customers throughout Minnesota. Fifteen percent of the power that the utility generates or purchases each year is from wind.
"One of the reasons many people would choose to drive an electric vehicle is because of the green effect," said David Ranallo, program manager for Great River Energy. "This is a way to promise a customer that wants to drive an electric vehicle for that reason that there are virtually zero emissions tied up in their source."
The utility will not charge any additional fee for participation in the program, he said. An earlier program aimed at assuring that electricity for homes or farms comes from wind carried a slight premium to Great River Energy's usual rates.
About 5 percent of new cars sold in Minnesota are hybrids or electric-powered. The utility's program only covers plug-in cars, which make up a smaller portion of sales than the hybrid cars that don't plug in.