Imagine the electric grid as a giant bathtub that is constantly being filled from many different faucets — each one represents a different electricity generation source such as coal, natural gas, nuclear and wind. Each time you use electricity, you drain a little water from the bathtub.

Most of the water being poured into the tub is from faucets connected to polluting fossil fuel sources — i.e., “dirty” water. But some of the water comes from a small but growing number of faucets associated with clean renewable sources, which contribute pure, clean water.

As the demand for electricity from renewable sources increases, more of the clean water goes into the tub — and less of the dirty water from fossil fuel sources is needed. Over time, as more and more people choose clean energy, we should start to see the water in the bathtub getting cleaner. How great would it be to see a pure, clean bathtub?

Buying renewable energy does not mean that electricity is coming directly from wind farms or other clean energy sources to your home — it is impossible to direct any specific electron that travels through the electric grid. However, it does mean that the electricity being poured into the grid on your behalf comes from pollution-free and renewable sources, rather than dirtier generation sources like coal and oil. Here’s how: We purchase generic electricity to serve our customers’ minute-by-minute power needs AND we ensure that enough cleaner energy is produced through the purchase of renewable energy certificates to match our customers’ usage. This is how we ensure that you are purchasing a renewable energy product.

Renewable energy certificates (referred to as RECs, and also known as renewable energy credits) represent the environmental and other non-power attributes of renewable electricity generation and are part of most renewable electricity products. You can think of RECs as a birth certificate for each unit of renewable energy created. They tell you when the renewable energy was created and who its parent is—whether it came from the wind, sun, a river, etc.