Make the Switch Frequently Asked Questions
What does Mass Audubon mean by Make the Switch?
In an effort to take meaningful action against climate change, we have teamed up with Massachusetts Energy Consumers Alliance (Mass Energy)—a local nonprofit dedicated to making energy more affordable and sustainable—to launch Make the Switch to Green Electricity. This is a new initiative that aims to inspire at least 1,000 Mass Audubon member households and other concerned citizens across the state to choose green electricity in the next year.
Is this really going to have an impact on climate change?
It really will! Studies have shown that actions by large numbers of people really have an impact. If enough dedicated citizens act now in a meaningful way, we can reduce emissions and encourage a lasting green economy. Buying green electricity provides a way for us all to make a difference as individuals and as a community of concerned residents.
Why should I Make the Switch to green power?
- It’s easy: You can switch to green electricity online or over the phone in minutes. All you need is your electric bill!
- It’s effective: By making the switch, you are purchasing green power that is locally sourced. Your support helps add more green power to the grid, displacing energy from fossil fuels and thereby reducing emissions of harmful heat-trapping gases. As demand for green power increases, so does the construction of new, local, renewable energy projects. Along with implementing home energy efficiency measures and installing solar panels, buying green electricity is one of the most effective things we, as individuals, can do to address climate change.
- It’s tax deductible: The amount spent on green power through Mass Energy each year can be deducted from your federal tax return, if you itemize charitable contributions.
- It’s local: Your power comes from nearby energy sources.
What are my choices for green electricity in Make the Switch?
To Make the Switch, you can choose between two products, New England Wind and New England GreenStart. New England Wind consists of 100% new wind sources, located exclusively in Massachusetts and Rhode Island. New England GreenStart consists of 25% new renewable energy sources such as wind, solar, and anaerobic digester gas (cow power), and 75% small, low-impact hydroelectric. All the sources are located in New England, with the vast majority in Massachusetts and Rhode Island. Those that are interested a higher percentage of new renewable sources, which translates to more new renewable energy going onto the New England grid, should consider New England Wind. New England Wind costs 3.8 cents per kWh you use in addition to regular electricity charges and New England GreenStart costs 2.4 cents per kWh you use in addition to regular electricity charges. The premiums for both products are 100% federally tax-deductible, if you itemize charitable contributions.
But wind turbines negatively impact wildlife, especially birds, don’t they?
They don’t have to. Because of renewable energy resources’ role in reducing greenhouse gas emissions, Mass Audubon believes they are essential to the environmental well-being of our nation and planet. We support the responsible planning, permitting, and siting of traditional and renewable energy resources, including wind energy. Such facilities, however, must be conditioned to minimize adverse impacts to birds, other living resources, and their habitat. We believe that as this industry evolves and expands, state and federal regulatory and planning mechanisms must also evolve to ensure that new wind energy facilities will be sited, designed, and built in an environmentally sound manner. Read more about Mass Audubon’s position on wind.
How does Make the Switch work?
When you buy electricity from a traditional utility such as Eversource or National Grid, your power comes from a variety of sources, including power plants that use coal, oil, natural gas, and nuclear fuel. When you Make the Switch, Mass Energy matches your electricity use with local green power. It brings renewable power from wind, solar, biomass, and low-impact hydro to the collective grid on your behalf—all without changing your regular utility company. Therefore, you will still be billed through your utility and it will still be your contact for power outages, etc.
How much does it cost?
Depending on your electric utility, you can either pay for this option (which on average costs an additional $14 to $23 more a month) directly through your utility bill or by way of a separate payment. Mass Energy provides a Green Calculator to give you an idea on cost. Either way, the billing process is automatic and hassle free, and the premium is tax deductible when it is itemized on federal returns.
How will I be billed?
When you Make the Switch, you invest a small amount each month in more green electricity. Here's how the billing works, depending on your utility provider.
- National Grid and Eversource (formerly WMECo) Customers: Payments for green electricity through New England Wind or New England GreenStart will be included in your monthly electric bill from your utility. You will see the charge as a separate line item.
- Eversource (formerly NSTAR) Customers: Your monthly electric bill from Eversource will not change. However, Eversource will share your monthly kWh usage with Mass Energy, so they can match your exact electricity usage with local renewable energy and bill you separately. Once Eversource shares your monthly usage, Mass Energy will send you a billing statement for either New England Wind or New England GreenStart via email. Three to five days later, the charge is automatically billed to your credit card. The charge will come roughly around the same time every month, but probably will not be on the same date, due to variations in your Eversource billing cycle. Mass Energy does not keep your credit card information. They use a professional company called USA EPay to make sure your card is secure and is charged monthly. After Mass Energy enters your information into EPay, they shred and destroy all evidence of your credit card number.
- Anyone else: If you are not a National Grid or Eversource customer, you can still purchase green power through Mass Energy’s New England Wind Friends program, which is completely separate from your electric utility bill. This means you can support the same projects included in the New England Wind program offered to National Grid and Eversource customers, but the level of support is up to you. You can choose to make monthly payments or a one-time payment. If you want the payment to be based on your electricity usage, Mass Energy can help you determine the appropriate amount. Payments can be made by check or credit card.
So if I Make the Switch, am I powering my home solely with renewable energy?
Whether or not you choose to support renewable electricity, you draw upon the "pool" of power that makes up the New England electric grid. It is physically impossible to distinguish and deliver individual electrons from individual generators to specific homes or businesses (this goes for “brown” electrons from coal, natural gas, and oil generators too!). However, by making the switch, you are ensuring that renewable electricity is being delivered to the power grid on your behalf, thus creating a cleaner, healthier overall energy mix.
What are RECs and how do I know that the RECs Mass Energy buys are being properly retired?
RECs, or renewable energy certificates, represent 1 megawatt hour of renewable energy produced. They are part of a system that tracks renewable energy going onto the grid, and each REC can only be counted once because it represents a specific megawatt hour of electricity. In New England, the tracking system is called the New England Power Pool Generation Information System (NEPOOL GIS). RECs are tracked separately from the physical electrons produced by a generator (such as a wind turbine) and have separate monetary value. When you Make the Switch, Mass Energy purchases RECs to match your electricity use, ensuring that equivalent green power has been generated. Mass Energy then retires the RECs so they cannot be used again, or “double-counted,” for someone else’s electricity use. Mass Energy has a GIS account so that the nonprofit can receive RECs from generators and retire them on behalf of its members.
What do I need to do to Make the Switch?
Enrolling is easy! Visit Mass Energy's website to sign up (be sure Mass Audubon is listed as the referring organization). You will be asked to enter your zip code, or choose your electric utility. It is a good idea to have your electric bill on hand when you sign up.
You can also call Mass Energy at 800-287-3950 ext. 5 to Make the Switch. If you call, please be sure to mention that you heard about the program through Mass Audubon!
What if my utility isn’t participating? Can I still Make the Switch?
Some utilities, such as local municipal utilities and Unitil, are not working with Mass Energy to allow customers to make the switch. If you live in a town served by one of these utilities, you can still enroll and invest a set amount each month toward the purchase of green power through Mass Energy’s New England Wind Friends program. It’s still adding green energy to a larger grid, and your contribution is still tax deductible. You can choose to make monthly payments or a one-time payment.
I already purchased green electricity. How do I know if my vendor sources from local projects?
Just ask! If you purchased green electricity already (good for you!), contact them to find out what percentage of their energy is locally sourced, versus outside of New England. You might also ask if your vendor is nonprofit, and how much they invest in new, local renewable energy projects. If you decide to Make the Switch through Mass Energy, you will need to cancel your enrollment in your current green power program.
Did Mass Audubon Make the Switch?
Yes! Since 2009 Mass Audubon has eliminated all carbon emissions from electricity use. Any green power that we don’t generate ourselves from our 35 photovoltaic arrays, we purchase through Mass Energy.
Does Mass Audubon benefit financially from Make the Switch?
No. Our goal is for others to take advantage of the same opportunities that have helped us lessen our own carbon footprint.
What else is Mass Audubon doing to address climate change?
The current and projected impacts of the changing climate on nature in Massachusetts are very significant, requiring a thoughtful and comprehensive approach and a sustained effort.
- We actively protect and manage more than 35,000 acres of land in Massachusetts, including forests that store excess carbon.
- We advise on climate change legislation and policy and serve on state and federal panels concerning clean energy projects, climate change readiness, and emissions reductions. We also encourage communities to take climate action at the local level.
- We lead by example, having reduced our annual carbon emissions from our buildings and vehicles nearly 50 percent over the course of a decade.
- Through our engaged membership and network of visitor centers, we are promoting a climate-literacy community across the Commonwealth.