PaloAltoGreen FAQs

PaloAltoGreen Frequently Asked Questions

1) Who is eligible to enroll in PaloAltoGreen?

All City of Palo Alto Utilities (CPAU) commercial electric customers are eligible to participate in PaloAltoGreen.

2) How do I sign up?

Enrollment is simple, voluntary, and you may cancel at any time. Commercial customers can enroll online by visiting the enrollment page, by calling (650) 329-2161, or by emailing

3) How much does PaloAltoGreen cost?

Commercial customers can participate in PaloAltoGreen by purchasing 100% renewable energy for $0.002 per kilowatt hour (kWh). Alternately, commercial customers (commercial rates) can participate in PaloAltoGreen by purchasing 1,000 kWh blocks of renewable energy. The cost is $2 per 1,000 kWh block. A business may buy renewable energy to equal 100% of its electricity use, or some portion, in 1,000 kWh increments. To learn more, visit the PaloAltoGreen business page.

4) How will I be billed?

PaloAltoGreen charges will appear on your regular utility bill as an additional line item.

5) What if I don't want to purchase renewable energy through PaloAltoGreen anymore?

No problem. You can cancel at no charge. Just email or call (650) 329-2241.

6) Is PaloAltoGreen renewable energy eligible for LEED points?

Yes. All PaloAltoGreen renewable energy is Green-e Energy Certified and eligible for green power points under the U.S. Green Building Council's Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) program.

7) What kind of renewable energy is supported by PaloAltoGreen, and where are the renewable energy facilities located?

100% of the PaloAltoGreen supply currently comes from solar facilities located in Palo Alto and throughout California.

8) What is renewable energy and how does it work?

Renewable energy is energy derived from sources that replenish themselves without depleting the Earth's resources. Renewable resources are abundant and cause little, if any, environmental damage. Examples of renewable energy sources include:
  • Wind
  • Solar
  • Landfill and agricultural waste (biomass)
  • Heat of the earth (geothermal)
  • Water (low-impact hydroelectric facilities)
  • The renewable energy that PaloAltoGreen supports comes entirely from solar power resources.

To understand how renewable energy works, it helps to first understand how the electric grid works. At the most basic level, the electric grid is a complex network of generators, power lines, and distribution infrastructure all working to ensure that the amount of electricity produced equals the amount of electricity consumed - all in real-time, no less! This network for transmitting electricity is also vast. For example, the western electric grid, of which California is a part, includes the provinces of Alberta and British Columbia, the northern portion of Baja California, Mexico, and all or portions of the 14 Western states between.

Renewable energy generators are connected to the electric grid just as conventional electricity generators. All generators - renewable and fossil fueled - produce the same thing: electricity. Once electricity from renewable sources enters the grid, it mixes with, and is indistinguishable from, electricity from conventional resources. Because the electricity is all the same, it is impossible to know if the electricity you are using comes from "green" electricity sources or "brown" electricity sources. However, what is important is that valuable environmental benefits or attributes are created when renewable energy displaces electricity generated by fossil fuels. The more renewable energy generated, the less pollution-producing energy is needed.

To better understand this concept and how renewable energy provides significant and substantive environmental savings - such as the prevention of carbon dioxide emissions - it helps to think of our electric grid as a giant bathtub and electricity as the water flowing in and out of the bathtub:

  • Many different faucets pour water into the tub: a faucet for electricity produced by burning coal, another faucet for wind-generated electricity, another faucet for solar, and so on. Once all the water from the different faucets mix in the tub, it is impossible to tell which faucet the water came from. Now think of the drain at the bottom of the tub as the flow of electricity off of the grid and into our homes.
  • To prevent overflow or an empty bathtub, the tub must stay filled with a consistent level of water (electricity). If you turn up the renewable energy faucet, less water has to come from the coal faucet to keep the level consistent. At a very basic level, this is how renewable energy provides significant and substantive environmental savings: the more we support renewable energy, the less we will have to burn coal and other nonrenewable resources to generate electricity.
  • To learn more about renewable energy, visit the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) website.
  • To learn more about how the electric grid works, visit the U.S. Energy Information Administration's website.

9) How does the City of Palo Alto Utilities (CPAU) purchase renewable energy for PaloAltoGreen?

When you sign up for PaloAltoGreen, CPAU buys renewable energy certificate (RECs) from solar power sources to match the enrollment level selected. RECs are one way the U.S. Department of Energy and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recommend supporting renewable energy. These certificates represent proof that specific quantities of electricity were generated from renewable sources, such as solar. The purchases are certified through Green-e Energy, a program of the non-profit Center for Resource Solutions in San Francisco. It is the leading certifier of voluntary renewable energy programs in the United States.

  • A REC is created when 1 megawatt hour (MWh) of renewable energy is generated and delivered to the power grid. (For more information on the grid and how renewable energy works, see question 9, above). Each REC contains all the environmental attributes, such as the avoided carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, that renewable energy creates by displacing 1 MWh of pollution-causing power. RECs provide a way to track ownership of the environmental attributes of each MWh of renewable energy from the generator all the way to the end user. To ensure the environmental integrity of your purchase, all PaloAltoGreen renewable energy is verified by Green-e Energy, an independent third-party consumer protection program. The Green-e Energy logo helps consumers easily identify environmentally superior renewable energy options. For more information on Green-e Energy certification requirements, call 1-888-63-GREEN or log on to
  • To learn more about RECs, visit the EPA's website. The Union of Concerned Scientists also has information on RECs on its website.

10) How can I be sure I am supporting renewable energy? Is PaloAltoGreen certified by an independent third-party?

PaloAltoGreen is a Green-e Energy Certified® program. Green-e Energy was established by the non-profit Center for Resource Solutions to provide information and an objective standard for consumers to compare renewable energy options and to verify that consumers get what they pay for.

  • When you see the Green-e Energy logo, it means:
      • The renewable energy option contains only new renewable resources.
      • The renewable sources of energy supplying the renewable energy option are independently verified by Green-e Energy, operated by the non-profit Center for Resource Solutions.
      • The purchaser of a Green-e Energy Certified renewable energy certificate is the sole "owner" of the environmental attributes of a specific megawatt hour (MWh) of energy added to the grid. Independent verification ensures that no MWh are double-counted.
      • The company offering the certified renewable energy option agrees to abide by the Green-e Energy Code of Conduct and Customer Disclosure Requirements governing its ethical treatment of customers.
  • For more information on Green-e Energy certification requirements, call 888.63.GREEN or logon to

11) Why does CPAU offer a voluntary renewable energy program?

CPAU is responding to the desires of its customers to purchase renewable energy above and beyond the amount CPAU purchases for all customers, the importance of developing the regional clean energy economy, and CPAU's commitment to expanding the use of renewable resources. PaloAltoGreen is available for all commercial customers who wish to pursue LEED credits or become an EPA Green Power Partner.
The PaloAltoGreen renewable-energy portfolio is comprised of 100% solar power. To see the power content label for CPAU and PaloAltoGreen, click here.

12) Does the City of Palo Alto Utilities profit from this program?

No. All program revenues are used to purchase renewable energy and cover the cost of administration and marketing. No PaloAltoGreen revenues are transferred to the City's General Fund.

13) Do other utilities offer voluntary renewable energy programs?

Yes. Over 850 utilities offer a renewable energy option similar to PaloAltoGreen. However, not many of these programs are as successful as PaloAltoGreen. For the past 5 years, PaloAltoGreen has placed first in the nation for customer participation rate as ranked by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL). To see the full list of rankings, please click here.

Last Updated: Mar 18, 2015