Switching to green energy
Is it worth it, or will it just prove to be a huge expense?
Sat, May 03 2008 at 12:00 AM
HOUSEHOLD SOLAR: You're bound to see more houses with solar panels like this one in the coming years. (Photo: sgt fun/Flickr)
Q. If I switch to "green" power, how much will it cost me? - Ted, MT
A. Actually, in many markets, your electric bill will hardly budge — and in some areas green power may even be cheaper than if you’d gone the standard route. The are a few different ways for green power programs to be set up, but generally it goes like this: you agree to pay for your electricity at the going rate for renewable sources — wind, solar, biomass or some combination, depending on what’s available in your area. Your utility then adds that much more renewable energy to the grid on your behalf, and decreases the amount it gets from fossil fuels.
Rates for all of these sources of renewable and non-renewable energy change frequently, which is probably why a lot of programs don’t tell you up front exactly what the price difference is, but the National Renewable Energy Lab recently crunched the numbers for the top ten most-used green energy programs. They found that, in the case of all ten green energy programs, consumers paid less than a penny per kilowatt hour more than they otherwise would have. And when you consider that electricity usually sells at around 8 to 14 cents/kWh, the added cost is really a pittance. Especially if you’re good about conserving electricity in the first place, by doing things like making sure your home is well-insulated, using passive solar power (windows) to keep your home warm in winter, unplugging appliances, and turning the heat and AC down. Sometimes, believe it or not, the renewable rate even drops below the standard rate! Who said going green was too expensive?
The point is, you’re not taking a huge risk by signing up, so give it a try. The customer service department of your utility ought to be able to get you more information on what’s available for you, and maybe even give you a price quote. And you can also get a list of programs by state from the NREL.
Story by Sarah Schmidt. This article originally appeared in Plenty in May 2008. The story was added to MNN.com in September 2009.
Copyright Environ Press 2008