Answers to some of the questions you might ask about GMP Cow Power.
Why is GMP offering Cow Power?
Cow Power was created in response to calls from the public for new, local renewable energy choices. Lots of investments were going into wind, solar, and biomass projects nationwide, but no one was investigating the very real possibilities of using manure to make electricity. It’s now a proven baseload and renewable technology, with significant benefits, such as reducing climate change impacts of farming and making air and water quality improvements.
Some customers choose to support Cow Power to reduce their reliance on dirtier power plants. Others want to avoid projects with greater physical or environmental impacts. Some want to support Vermont’s dairy industry, and help maintain our working landscape. Cow Power allows you to do all these things.
Cow Power also provides a new income stream to participating farmers, reduces some of the water-quality impacts of farming by using innovative manure management technologies, and reduces the escape of methane, a greenhouse gas roughly 20 times more effective than carbon dioxide at trapping heat. Participating farms also reduce bedding costs by using dry Cow Power byproducts in place of sawdust.
Finally, the process of producing Cow Power significantly reduces manure odor – a great benefit for anyone passing by a dairy farm on a hot summer day.
Can I buy power directly from the farmer?
No. Vermont law and utility tariffs set out rules for the sale and delivery of electricity. GMP Cow Power is only available through the company, but our goal – and the success of the program – is to provide significant benefits to local farmers and the environment through your voluntary contributions.
Are there special terms and conditions that apply to GMP Cow Power?
Generally, Cow Power service is subject to the same terms and conditions that apply to all customers. Because this service is voluntary, the following special terms and conditions also apply: a) The company reserves the right to require contracts of up to three years for large commercial and industrial customers, since enrollment or loss of their high usage could have major effects on the service; b) we will remove you from the program if your account falls into arrears, and will remove past-due Cow Power charges from your bill; and c) Customers on a monthly budget are not eligible for Cow Power.
Where does my money go?
For every kilowatt-hour requested by customers and provided by a Vermont farm, we’ll pay the farmer for the energy at rates set by the state, plus the Cow Power charge of 4 cents for the environmental and renewable benefits of the generation. If there are not enough kilowatt-hours (kWh) available from our farm partners, we will attempt to acquire and retire premium Renewable Energy Certificates from other regional renewable generation, issued by the regional system operator, to support renewables in a broader sense. If no certificates are available in the regional market for 4 cents per kWh or less, we’ll deposit the payments into the GMP Renewable Development Fund. This fund, overseen by an independent board, provides numerous incentives to farmers to stimulate further renewable farm generation in Vermont. We don’t profit from the program, but the good news of GMP Cow Power has traveled around the world!
The fund’s activities include: a) providing grants, loans and other incentives to farms to support methane generation, project development, operation, and interconnection to the electric system; b) supporting efforts to commercialize renewable generation by farm-producers; c) demonstrating and commercializing renewable generation using agricultural products, byproducts, or waste; d) educating potential farm-producers on energy technology and development; and e) overcoming market barriers that prevent farm-producers from developing renewable generation projects in our territory.
Will I really receive electricity actually produced by cows?
GMP Cow Power electricity is indistinguishable from other electricity supplied by the company because it is impossible to track the flow of an electron on the regional electric power grid. This is unavoidable because all customers are served through the same system of wires. Instead, the program is designed to assure that GMP Cow Power payments support qualifying renewable sources and farm-producers, or are made to the GMP Renewable Development Fund as approved by state regulators.
When there is not enough manure-powered production, your contribution may help support solar, wind, small hydro, and biomass producers certified for compliance with renewable electric utility performance standards. Like farm generation, the resources targeted in these performance standards are generally newer technologies that have yet to reach widespread commercial use. These sources would only be relied upon if farmers in our service territory did not supply enough electricity to meet demand. Right now, we are in search of more customers to enroll in Cow Power to support our farm producers.