Saturday, October 22, 2011

Alternative Energy Options in Your State

The future of America, both in terms of job creation and fighting global warming, is in renewable energy. We need to wean ourselves off oil, a product that creates jobs in Saudi Arabia, Libya, Iran and Venezuela while polluting our atmosphere, to cleaner, greener products like solar, wind, biomass and geothermal, to name a few. This isn't just one person's opinion. It is the opinion of some of the world's greatest scientists. From BBC News:

Renewables can fuel society, say world climate advisers

Renewable technologies could supply 80% of the world's energy needs by mid-century, says the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

In a report, it says that almost half of current investment in electricity generation is going into renewables...

The report analysed 164 "scenarios" of future energy development; and the ones in which renewables were most aggressively pursued resulted in a cut in global greenhouse gas emissions of about one-third compared with business-as-usual projections by 2050...

We need to do this for our economy, for job creation, and for our environment. And you can be a part of it. Right now in many states you can CHOOSE to buy all green energy. There are various programs at various costs, but most provide some environmental benefit, create American jobs and cost mere pennies more per kwH than your current bill.

You can find out about 100% Green Energy Plans or click here for other options. But if you want to do some research first, there is a site, Power Scorecard, that makes comparisons easy in some states.

You have to click on the site, select your state (New York for me) and your service territory (Consolidated Edison--New York City for me). The site will then provide a list of options, with a comparison of cost and environmental impact (lower is good) in a clear table with a comparison to your regular, non green, fossil fuel based company. You can then get a more detailed comparison of some of the options you like as well as links and info on how to sign up.

Let me give you a few examples.

For me, I select New York and Consolidated Edison--New York City and get a big table. Fist I look near the bottom of the table and see the regular ConEd utility service. It costs 26.4¢ per kWh and has a pretty terrible environmental impact. It shows a breakdown of many different environmental factors, but for simplicity let's just look at the overall environmental impact score: 7.7. Needless to say for both cost and environmental impact we want the lowest possible number. Every green option will be a little bit more than 26.4¢ per kWh, but that can be offset but simple actions like replacing light bulbs with compact fluorescent bulbs (see below). But the goal is to get the lowest environmental impact with the lowest cost above 26.4¢ per kWh.

The easiest option, and the one my wife and I chose years ago, is Con Edison Solutions Wind Power. This is supposed to be 100% wind power. A rival company told me that may not be completely true, but of course they had a vested interest in convincing me to switch. The environmental impact score is only .5, a large improvement over the 7.7 of most ConEd customers. The cost is 32.0¢ per kWh...that is 5.6 cents per kWh higher than the regular service. Now this is a bit higher a jack up than we might like, but I want to emphasize that when we combined this increase with switching all our bulbs to compact fluorescents, our electricity bill went DOWN by 30%. So the increased cost per kWh was easily offset by an energy efficiency step that saved us gobs of money. However, as you will see below, I now learn, thanks to the Power Scorecard website, that there is an even better option if we can get up the initiative to change. We can lower our impact even more while saving a bit of money.

The top option is Community Energy, Inc. 100% New Wind Energy. This really is 100% wind energy. It's environmental impact score is only .1, far below the 7.7 of regular ConEd service and better even than ConEd's all wind option (which has some land use issues, it seems). So it is about as green as you can get. The cost is only slightly higher than regular ConEd service, 28.9¢ per kWh. That is 2.5 cents per kWh higher than regular, fossil fuel based service and again that is easily offset by a little energy efficiency. My wife and I should consider saving some money and improving our environmental impact by switching from our current green energy option to this one.

There are several other options listed, but the ones I discuss seem to be the best bang for the buck. NativeEnergy WindBuilders is even better and cheaper 27.4¢ per kWh, but is more of an offset than something that just gets onto your regular energy bill. But it is a valid way to go. And is actually REALLY cool since it helps finance construction of new Native American wind energy projects by purchasing a share of the renewable energy credits it will generate. NativeEnergy is currently supporting construction of the Rosebud St. Francis wind turbine in South Dakota. This is a very attractive option, but I will say that we for now prefer the convenience of a program that we can do right through our regular bill. I should emphasize that this kind of offset program is really not that different otherwise than the options you do through your bill. All in reality use the regular energy mix, but offset it by helping to add green energy to that mix for the future.

For the NativeEnergy WindBuilders option, contact Native Energy directly:
Phone: 1.800.924.6826

For other parts of New York you'd have to pick another service area.

Let me do another example. Let me do one in New Jersey. I pick New Jersey and, just as an example, Rockland Energy. First thing I see is that energy in New Jersey is WAY cheaper than in NYC. Not a surprise. The basic Rockland Energy service is 12.5¢ per kWh. But the environmental impact is even worse than for ConEd in NYC: a 9 instead of 7.7. There are several better options.

Community Energy, Inc.100% New Jersey Wind Energy: Overall Environmental Impact Rating: 0.8 for 18.0¢ per kWh.

Community Energy, Inc. 50% Wind, 1% Solar, & 49% Low-Impact Hydro: Overall Environmental Impact Rating: 1.3 for 14.5¢ per kWh.

Sterling Planet New Jersey Clean Power Choice Option: Overall Environmental Impact Rating: 2.6 for 16.0¢ per kWh

Green Mountain Energy Company: Overall Environmental Impact Rating: 2.9 for 14.5¢ per kWh.

You could switch to Community Energy, Inc.100% New Jersey Wind Energy, the best option, and still save money if you also switch your lightbulbs to compact fluorescents. But you can also switch to Community Energy, Inc. 50% Wind, 1% Solar, & 49% Low-Impact Hydro and still do far better than the regular Rockland Energy service and pay very little extra. That alone would greatly lower your impact and would still be helping create American jobs.

Now let me do a Pennsylvania example. I pick Pennsylvania and Allegheny Power Co. Here the prices are even cheaper than New Jersey! The regular Allegheny Power Co. fossil fuel based service is 4.3¢ per kWh...with a horrible environmental impact score of 9.6! If you get regular power service in Pennsylvania, you have an awful carbon footprint. But you can do better. There are two particularly good options.

NativeEnergy CoolWatts costs only 5.3¢ per kWh for an overall environmental impact score of 1.1...MUCH better than the regular service and only for one penny more per kWh. CoolWatts is 100% New Wind, certified by Green-e. For just 1 cent per kWh over the cost of electricity from your local electric service provider, you can create the same impact as buying clean electricity from your utility, supporting wind-powered electricity production in North and South Dakota. This is really one of the best programs you can find because it offsets your energy use with some of the best wind power generation in the world. For more info on this excellent program, contact Native Energy:

Phone: 1.800.924.6826

The other Pennsylvania option has a lower impact but costs more. Community Energy, Inc. New Wind Energy has an environmental impact score of .3 for 6.8¢ per kWh. Better than CoolWatts but a tad more expensive. But again, if you combine it with some energy efficiency you will still overall save more.

You can also compare companies in Texas.

One of the best actions you can take for the future of America is to switch your power choice to one of the green options I mention or the equivalent in your area. If you are in New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania or Texas, go to Power Scorecard and find your best options. Once you switch you will feel great about being part of the solution rather than part of the problem.

For other states there are a variety of programs. Again, you can find out about 100% Green Energy Plans or click here for other options.

I also want to emphasize that energy efficiency is another way you can be greener and in this case save money. Often combining energy efficiency with a switch to all green power gives you a net savings while making you about as green as can be, your car aside.

First, get a home energy audit. This is the best way to find ways to save energy and save money. The US Department of Energy has suggestions for a do-it-yourself (cheaper but not as effective) audit as well as how to get a professional audit (costs money but will find more effective ways of saving you money in the long run).

You should also switch your light bulbs from the old, inefficient incandescent bulbs to new, cleaner, MUCH more efficient compact fluorescent bulbs. When my wife and I did this our energy bill went down by 30% immediately. We saved a huge amount by making the switch. Compact fluorescents are a bit more expensive than incandescent, but they last MUCH longer and use MUCH less energy so you save a lot in the long run.

The savings from switching to compact fluorescents alone can be enough to more than offset the cost of buying all green energy. And if you add some of the other energy efficiency savings, you will never even notice the cost of buying green energy. And you will be helping revitalize America's economy and environment, providing one of the best gifts you can give your children and grandchildren.

Take these three steps to saving money and going green. You can be part of the solution, reducing pollution AND creating American jobs.

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